Tuskegee Airman: Col. George S. “Spanky” Roberts

George S. “Spanky” Roberts was among the first African-Americans selected for pilot training at the famed Tuskegee Army Airfield Click here to learn about third-party website links. He commanded a fighter squadron and flew 78 combat missions over Europe in the Second World War. Upon retirement from the Air Force in 1968, Roberts embarked upon a second career as a banker for Wells Fargo.

The Tuskegee Airmen Click here to learn about third-party website links story is one of the most inspiring of the Civil Rights era Click here to learn about third-party website links. In 1941, Congress mandated an all-African American flying unit within the U.S. Army Air Corps Click here to learn about third-party website links. In June, the 99th Fighter Squadron formed at Tuskegee Institute Click here to learn about third-party website links, the distinguished university founded in Alabama 60 years earlier by Booker T. Washington Click here to learn about third-party website links.

Col. George S. 'Spanky' RobertsThe African American squadrons were deployed the following summer in North African and Italian campaigns, which began the record of combat excellence the units established. Black pilots escorted bombers and flew raids, amassing an impressive number of enemy aircraft destroyed, in addition to the tremendous number of Allied bombers they protected. It was hard enough to protect cumbersome bombers from wispy attack planes; it was another thing entirely to keep them intact and shoot down attackers.

Black fighter pilots Click here to learn about third-party website links took on double duty under the stress of combat, and did it with distinction.

George Roberts commanded the 99th Fighter Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group, which saw action over North Africa and Italy. After President Harry S. Truman desegregated the armed forces for good in 1948, Roberts became the first African American officer to command a racially-mixed unit at Langley Air Force Base Click here to learn about third-party website links in 1950. Roberts returned to combat in Korea, commanding the 51st Air Base Group and the Air Force base at Suwon.

During the Cold War, Colonel Roberts oversaw logistics for most of the Air Force’s fighters and all of its missiles in the Pacific. During his 26-year military career, Roberts was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross Click here to learn about third-party website links, Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, eleven battle stars and two Presidential Unit Citations Click here to learn about third-party website links.

When Colonel Roberts was preparing for retirement from uniform, he was recruited into a banking career by a fellow former pilot and Wells Fargo banker. In 1968, Roberts moved into a new career as a credit officer for Wells Fargo in Sacramento, California. He retired from Wells Fargo in 1982, and died soon after. In honor of his distinguished career, the Sacramento chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Click here to learn about third-party website links is named after Colonel Roberts.

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12 Responses to Tuskegee Airman: Col. George S. “Spanky” Roberts

  1. Erwin says:

    AS an African-American working for Wells-Fargo, I am more than proud to see that I have one thing in common with one of the Tuskegee Airmen. Black History is richer than people realize.

  2. Charles Riggs says:

    Hi Erwin:

    You’re right. (But you hear that all the time, don’t you?)

    One “mission” of contemporary Historians is to make it clear that history is for EVERYONE because it’s ABOUT everyone. History tells us about ourselves and how we can be our best.

    Black History is great history, because it’s about people BEING WHO THEY ARE in spite of their circumstances. A huge success story, I think. (And still in the making!)

  3. PAUL WIGGINS says:

    HAVING SERVED AS AN AIR FORCE AIDE TO LT. GEN. BEN DAVIS JR., I HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF MEETING COL. GEORGE ROBERTS IN A PROFESSIONAL CAPACITY AT WELLS FARGO BANK ON FREEPORT BLVD, IN SACRAMENTO, CA. WITHOUT INITIALLY BEING AWARE OF OUR MUTUALITY OF AN AIR FORCE PAST WE BECAME FRIENDS & LATER LEARNED OF THE MANY COMMON FRIENDS WE SHARED. I ATTENDED THE COLONEL’S FUNERAL MANY YEARS LATER AND HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HONORED NOT ONLY TO HAVE BEEN A FRIEND, A FELLOW AIRMAN BUT A FELLOW AMERICAN. HE EPITIMIZED ALL THAT WAS GREAT OF THE AMERICA I ONCE SERVED AND HONORED. HIS PASSING WAS A GREAT LOSS TO ALL WHO KNEW AND RESPECTED HIS DEDICATION.

    NOT MANY LIKE HIM EXIST TODAY . . . . A TRUE OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN.

  4. evonna says:

    i like the story

  5. CAMERON says:

    THIS STORY HAS GOOD INFORMATION…

    • Anonymous says:

      col roberts did a remarkable job as commander of the tuskegee university airforce rotc.many of his students went on to become outstanding airforce officers

  6. Connie says:

    I am proud to say Col Roberts was my mothers’ 1st cousin. I have found memories of spending time with him his lovely wife and children when he would come to Chicago. In spite of his many accomplishments, he always had time for family.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hi Connie, Which cousin is your Mom?
    Remember,those Pattersons are everywhere!!Andy and Dolly Patterson had a BIG family.
    George’s Mom,Estella Mae, gave me the entire Family history (warts and all!) when I lived with them in Fairmont,WV where our son,George,Jr.was born(1943).As I look back now, I know twice as much about his family as I do my own.(:
    Keep in touch,please,I’d like to get to know you and yours.Would love to send you a picture of our family.We’re a crazy bunch but fun to be around.

  8. Blunt says:

    Bro. Col. Roberts was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, having been in initiated into Theta Psi Chapter @ West Virgina State College. We have a display honoring him and his servioce on our Omega Museum on Decatur GA. Having been employed by Wells Fargo and a member of Omega Psi Phi an former curator ot the museum, I an extremely proud of Bro. Roberts and his service…..

  9. Houston says:

    Brother Col. George “Spanky” Roberts is a great example of the African American man, Omega man, and an American. He has endeavored the injustices of bigotry, segregation, unequal treatment, and lived his Creed. I applaud his success with Tuskegee Airmen. Congratulations sir!!! I am glad to be a part of the Omega Psi Phi chapter Col. George “Spanky” Roberts founded. Thank you for building that bridge.

  10. Rick Hinds says:

    I’m very familiar with Colonel Roberts’ military career. I was bested by George Lucas in getting his not so good story called Red Tails done. The Chairman of Disney studios called me after reading my 99th fighter squadron story which was titled “AIRMEN”. He said my story brought him to tears after reading it over the weekend. However, he was going to defer to George Lucas. Maybe it’ll come around again…It’s a tear jerker…

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