One of the last surviving members of the Tuskegee Airman, died in the hospital in Los Angeles at age 100, after complications from COVID-19.

Only eight original combat pilots and support personnel are still alive from the famed black flying unit. All are in their 90’s or have already surpassed the century mark.

There were 992 Tuskegee Airmen pilots trained at Tuskegee, including single-engine fighter pilots, twin-engine bomber pilots, and liaison and service pilots. The total number of Tuskegee Airmen, counting ground personnel such as aircraft mechanics and logistical personnel, was more than 14,000.

Lumpkin served as an intelligence officer, giving mission briefings to pilots during a combat tour in Italy. He retired from the Air Force Reserves as a lieutenant colonel.

Between early June 1944 and the end of April 1945, the Tuskegee Airmen flew 312 missions, 179 of which were bomber escort missions. The Airmen were highly successful, losing escorted bombers to enemy aircraft on only seven of those missions.

The total number of Tuskegee Airmen-escorted bombers shot down by enemy fighters was less than 30, while the average number lost by each of the other six fighter escort groups in the Fifteenth Air Force was over 45.

Lumpkin was a quiet professional, whose own family didn’t know about his involvement in the Tuskegee Airmen until much later in his life.

During his tenure in the military, he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from USC. He met his wife, Georgia, while he was a student and got married soon after. Years later, he retired from the the Air Force Reserves as a lieutenant colonel.

It was only after retiring from the Air Force Reserves and subsequent careers as a social worker and real estate broker, that Lumpkin became the president of the Los Angeles chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc. The mission of the organization is to honor the accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen and promote interest in aviation and science among young people.

For many years, Lumpkin kept a busy travel schedule, giving presentations and attending board meetings.

Lumpkin’s family knew that he served during WWII, not that he was one of the fabled Tuskegee Airmen.

His wife, Georgia said, “He didn’t talk about it much. He’d maybe mention some incident or a buddy, but we were married for a number of years until I heard about them. When I realized who these guys were and what they’d done, I was just overcome at how much they persevered. They did not bow down. They achieved things that detractors said they couldn’t, weren’t capable of doing.”

Lumpkin was only a few days shy of his 101st birthday when he passed away. He was still driving, and had recently purchased a new white Kia Sport. He’d even learned how to use Zoom for virtual conferences and board meetings.

Theodore Lumpkin was the consummate American hero. He is survived by his wife, two sons, one daughter, several grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Our nation was a better place because of men like him. RIP.

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