Retired West Virginia State Professor to Discuss University’s Link to Tuskegee Airmen

Contact: Dr. Donna M. Simon
(304) 766-3363
March 27, 2013
Retired West Virginia State Professor to Discuss University’s Link to Tuskegee Airmen

CHARLESTON – The role of West Virginia State University (WVSU) in the training of the famed Tuskegee Airmen of World War II will be discussed Tuesday, April 2, in the Archives and History Library of the Culture Center in Charleston.

Dr. Charles T. Ledbetter, former WVSU professor, will present “The West Virginia State College Aviation Program – The Tuskegee Airmen Connection in the Experiment” beginning at 6 p.m.  The program is free and open to the public.

Drawing on a wide range of resources and historical documents, Ledbetter will discuss WVSU’s 1938-42 Aviation Program, with the focus on providing an understanding and appreciation of the connection between the program and the Tuskegee Airmen.  

Ledbetter said most historians, journalists, authors and at least two major motion pictures credit the deeds of the Tuskegee Airmen with playing a major role in ending African Americans struggle for “the right to fight” for their country and the segregation of the military.  However, few have publicly told the story of the struggle for the right to teach African Americans to fly planes under a 1930s federal government aviation training program.  
Ledbetter will explain how WVSU (then West Virginia State College) was able to get the first aviation program awarded to an all-Black College.  He will also discuss how three administrators were key to the award of the Aviation Program to the University, and how each played a critical role in obtaining, shaping and strengthening the program that influenced the success of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Among the topics he will explore during his lecture are: what it was like to live in the 1930s relative to the field of aviation for Americans in general and African Americans in particular; the leaders involved with the Aviation Program; the challenges to the success of the program; the role of women in the program; and the Tuskegee Airmen connection to the program.   

Born in Muskogee, Okla., Ledbetter holds an undergraduate degree from Lincoln University, a master’s degree from Golden Gate University and a doctoral degree from Kent State University. 

Retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel after a 20-year career in the U.S. Army, he spent almost 30 years at WVSU where he retired as Professor Emeritus in Education. 

He is the author of three books and a number of published articles including his award-winning, two-volume book-set, “Alliance Against the Odds: The Manual Training High School Story.”  He recently completed his fourth book, a biography, which is planned to be published later this year.

Ledbetter is currently vice chair of the Archives and History Commission for the State of West Virginia.

On April 2, the Archives and History Library will close at 5 p.m. and reopen at 5:45 p.m. for lecture participants only. For planning purposes, participants are encouraged to register for the lecture, but advance registration is not required to attend. To register in advance, contact Bobby Taylor, library manager, at or at (304) 558-0230, ext. 163.

For more information, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.
West Virginia State University is a public, land grant, historically black university, which has evolved into a fully accessible, racially integrated, and multi-generational institution, located in Institute, W.Va. As a “living laboratory of human relations,” the university is a community of students, staff, and faculty committed to academic growth, service, and preservation of the racial and cultural diversity of the institution. Its mission is to meet the higher education and economic development needs of the state and region through innovative teaching and applied research.
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