Contributed by Janet Jones
When I think of my father, Rev. Dr. Milton Holmes, I am reminded of the passion and fervor with which he has embraced life. I realize that much of his character and principles can be traced back to his history as a Tuskegee Airman. He has embedded some of those lessons and methodologies in those he’s taught, trained and raised.
What excited my father most upon his arrival in Class 46-A was the common goal of the entire Tuskegee experience — the pursuit of excellence. Their academic discipline was administered with the same precision as their aeronautical training. To him education was the catalyst for achievement with dignity and integrity. He instilled that principle in me. It was understood that I would graduate from college and strive for success for the remainder of my life. To think otherwise was unacceptable.
The Tuskegee Airmen, according to my father, were a loyal and protective group, emphasizing the importance of teamwork. They were of the mindset, “All for one, one for all.” Those in combat carried that ideology into the European theatre during World War II, where they were assigned to protect the very men who hated them the most — their fellow White American officers. America was their home, and they were proud to serve and defend their country; yet, they were treated worse than the prisoners of war. It was as though they were in the midst of two battles — the world’s and their own.
World War II ended before my father could be deployed. Therefore, he was discharged from the Army Air Corps embittered and determined to disarm racial discrimination with the same passion others employed to strengthen it. He involved himself in the Civil Rights movement. He challenged corporations and politicians in his fight for racial equality, whether as Vice President of the National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees, the first Black industrial union, or as an Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist, where he won many cases for minorities who faced discrimination. He walked picket lines and participated in the March on Washington.
I’ve watched my father, Dr. Milton Holmes, remain loyal to those who have helped him throughout his life. I’ve witnessed him encourage hundreds of young people to become educated in medicine and law because that was the key to stepping on the neck of racism and poverty. I’ve driven with him to deliver food baskets to the poor, regardless of their color. I’ve sat in the church he pastored and listened to him assure his congregation that God loved them and, to Him, they were equal to all ethnicities.
My father continues to reminisce about his fellow comrades, the Tuskegee Airmen, and the role he played as one of them. I am filled with a sense of pride and humility that he is part of the core of American history.
I have been inspired by Rev. Dr. Milton Holmes to live life with passion, compassion, and faithfulness, pursuing knowledge along the way. I realize that while I may not be mentioned in history books, nor be discovered through archeological artifacts, I, too, am a part of the core of American history through his legacy.