Former Tuskegee Airman died in Florida

Published: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 9:41 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 9:41 a.m.

BILOXI, Miss. Former Tuskegee Airman Robert Decatur, who became a judge and civil rights lawyer, will be buried in Biloxi this week.

Decatur died at his home in Titusville, Fla., on Aug. 19 at age 88. Burial is at Biloxi National Cemetery with full military honors at 11 a.m. Thursday.

He graduated from St. Leo High School in Chicago and received his pilot's license from the University of Akron in Ohio. He earned a law degree from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

Decatur was selected for the Tuskegee Airmen Experiment during World War II. In 1943, he became the first black preflight cadet to be sent to Keesler Field in Biloxi for basic training. The cadets were sent to Tuskegee from Keesler Field.

The Tuskegee Airmen had the record of never losing a bomber to enemy fire in 1,500 missions, and of destroying German airplanes and rail cars and trucks on ground as well as an enemy destroyer.

In 2007, he was among the surviving airmen who received the Congressional Gold Medal.

In his law career, Decatur was part of a team representing 12 white students and one black student who were registering people to vote in Sunflower County in the early 1960s. He heard more than 10,000 cases during 25 years as a judge in probate court in Cleveland, Ohio, and taught at six different law schools.

Decatur is survived by his wife, Rose; a son, three daughters, a stepson, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

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