Topic(s):

Happy Birthday, Alfred “Chief” Anderson

US #4879 – Alfred Anderson
US #4879 was the 15th stamp in the Distinguished Americans Series.

The Father of Black Aviation, Charles Alfred “Chief” Anderson Sr. was born on February 9, 1907, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

As a child in Pennsylvania, Anderson watched airplanes soar across the sky and knew he wanted to be in the cockpit one day.  After high school, he could not find anyone willing to rent him a plane or teach him to fly because of the color of his skin.  Anderson didn’t give up though.  He went to aviation ground school and learned about the mechanics of airplanes.  He also spent time at airports, learning whatever he could from the pilots.

By 1929, Anderson realized the only way he would get to fly was to buy his own plane.  That’s just what he did – he purchased a Velie Monocoupe with his savings and money loaned from friends and family.  He joined a flying club, but they didn’t teach him.  Over time, Anderson taught himself to take off and land the plane.

Fleetwood FDC
US #4879 – Fleetwood First Day Cover with Digital Color Postmark

Eventually Anderson was able to make a deal with one of the club members.  Russell Thaw wanted to visit his mother in Atlantic City on weekends but didn’t have his own plane.  Thaw would fly Anderson’s plane while Anderson watched.  By August 1929, Anderson was able to get his private pilot’s license.

Colorano Silk FDC
US #4879 – Colorano Silk Cachet Combination First Day Cover

When Anderson next set out to get an air transport pilot’s license, he again had trouble finding someone willing to train him.  Eventually, he met Ernest H. Buehl, a German pilot who helped open transcontinental airmail routes.  With Buehl’s training, Anderson got his license in February 1932.  He was the first African American to get an air transport pilot’s license from the Civil Aeronautics Administration.

US #C10 – Charles Lindbergh
US #C10 – Anderson met Lindbergh in 1934.  He’s been called the Charles Lindbergh of Black Aviation.

In 1933, Anderson met doctor and fellow pilot Albert E. Forsythe.  Together they set out to encourage more African Americans to become pilots.  They did so in part by making record-setting flights.  They became the first black pilots to make a round-trip flight across the US.  Anderson and Forsythe also flew a goodwill tour of the Caribbean.  By 1938, Anderson was an aviation instructor in Washington, DC.

Benjamin O. Davis commemorative cover
Item #113815B – Benjamin O. Davis Jr. Commemorative Cover

As World War II raged in Europe, America prepared for combat.  In 1940, Anderson was hired to be chief flight instructor at the Tuskegee Institute’s new Civilian Pilot Training Program.  Anderson developed the pilot training program and taught the first advanced course.  It was here he earned his nickname, “Chief.”  He also taught some aviation pioneers including Benjamin O. Davis Jr and Daniel “Chappie” James Sr.

US #4879a – Imperforate Anderson stamp
US #4879a – Imperforate Anderson Stamp

In 1941, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the institute and took a 40-minute flight with Anderson.  Later that year, the Army made Anderson Tuskegee’s ground commander and chief instructor of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, the first all-African American fighter squadron.  By the war’s end, Anderson had trained nearly 1,000 pilots.  The Tuskegee Airmen flew 1,378 combat missions and earned more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses and other awards.

Tuskegee Airmen bronze medal
Item #CNM11272 – Tuskegee Airmen 1.5-inch Bronze Medal.

After the war, Anderson continued to teach at the institute.  In 1967, he helped found Negro Airmen International, the oldest African American pilot organization in the country.  Anderson’s health declined by the 1990s and he could no longer fly.  He died on April 13, 1996.  His family later founded the C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson Legacy Foundation to continue his mission of promoting aviation to children and communities.

You asked, and we listened…  FREE printable This Day in History album pages are now available!

Click here to download a PDF of today’s article.

It’s two pages.  The first page has a border so you can print it on whatever paper you want.  The second page doesn’t have a border so you can print it on Mystic’s blank supplement pages.

And click here if you need a binder, or other supplies to create your This Day in History album.  You’ll find handy mount grab bags, or you can get the mounts you need on each individual US stamp page.

Let us know if you like these pages and want us to keep creating them.

And remember – you can purchase any of the stamps, covers, or coins in these articles.  Just click on the pictures and add them to your cart.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
[Total: 37 Average: 4.8]

Share this article

2 responses to "Happy Birthday, Alfred “Chief” Anderson"

2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Alfred “Chief” Anderson”

Leave a Comment

Love history?

Discover events in American history – plus the stamps that make them come alive.

Subscribe to get This Day in History stories straight to your inbox every day!