Tuskegee Airman Remembered As Humble Giant

It was a gathering to celebrate a life well-lived.

Family, friends and people touched by his legacy filled the pews of a Prince George's County, Md., church to remember Tuskegee Airman Charles Herbert Flowers.

"We loved him," said mourner Antonio L Abney, Jr. "We appreciated him."

Flowers was a member of the first class of 13 Tuskegee Airmen, the elite group of African-Americans that broke down barriers during World War II to become America’s first black military airmen. The group included pilots, navigators, bombadiers, maintenance and support staff, and instructors. Flowers was the groups first African-American flight instructor.

"I feel like I contributed more by instructing," he told the Prince George's County Gazette in 2007. "I personally instructed over 100 pilots that went to war,” he said. ‘‘And I didn’t get shot at.”

In the early 1960s, Flowers began working for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. He retired in 1990, then turned his focus back toward where he first made his mark. He taught.

Through his church, Flowers started to mentor at-risk elementary and middle school students. Later on in his life, Flowers High School in Springdale was named after him. Students there will hold a concert in his honor next week.

"We're very proud of the legacy of Mr. Flowers," said mourner Mary Ann White. "His very presence in the town, in the school, wherever he went, just represented someone that you looked up to."

Those who knew him said that's just part of his legacy. One word that many at Friday's service used to describe him: humble.

"He was a quiet gentle giant," said White.

Flowers died of renal and heart failure. He was 92-years-old.

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