NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University recognized members of the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as two Tuskegee Airmen alumni, at a special Veterans Day program on Monday.
Mr. Wade Thomas graduated from then-Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State College in 1949 and Lt. Joseph White graduated from the institution in 1954. Both men were members of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces during World War II.
Before the men were posthumously honored, TSU President Glenda Glover greeted those in attendance, and recognized all veterans.
“On this Veterans Day, we recognize the men and women of our Armed Forces for the courage and dedication it takes to maintain our freedom and democracy,” she said. “They are the true heroes, including those who are here with us today.”
In the early forties, Thomas enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and served with the Tuskegee Airmen during WWII. He later attended Tennessee A&I and graduated with a bachelor’s in business administration, with distinction. He went on to become one of the first minority accountants in the state of Tennessee, and later became a certified public accountant.
White joined the Tuskegee cadet program in 1943, becoming one of the famed “Red Tail” fighter pilots. During his service, he flew missions in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany. He later enrolled at Tennessee A&I. He graduated with a bachelor’s in physics, and went on to receive two master’s degrees in science education and administration, as well as a doctorate in physics. He later served as a physicist and teacher, establishing an electronics program at Pearl High School in Nashville.
White’s widow, Dr. Katie Kinnard White, attended Monday’s program with White’s nephew, Thomas Kinnard. She said after the event that her late husband would have been 97 this year.
“I am very pleased that he is being honored,” said Dr. White, who met her husband at Tennessee State, where she taught for 35 years. “I always appreciated the fact that he was a Tuskegee Airman. He was very proud of that fact.”
Three members of Wade’s family attended the program.
“This is a very exciting moment,” said son George Thomas, who attended with brothers, Axel and Karl, and sister, Korda. “He accomplished things that opened the door for a lot of blacks. It’s great to be able to celebrate him.”
Dr. Ivan Mosley, chair of the Department of Aeronautical and Industrial Technology in TSU’s College of Engineering, was the program’s keynote speaker. He said Tuskegee Airmen, like Thomas and White, were able to become successful because someone took a “keen interest” in their abilities.
“When we take a keen interest in someone, it makes a difference,” Mosley said.
TSU senior Elijah McNutt performed a dramatic reading during the program. He said he enjoyed honoring the two Tuskegee Airmen, and all veterans.
“It’s really a great opportunity to show appreciation, to let them know we haven’t forgotten them,” McNutt said.
In August, TSU, a certified “Vets Campus,” announced it is implementing a new program that will allow veterans to count military training for credit hours when they enroll at the institution. The program is part of the State of Tennessee’s Veteran Reconnect Initiative.
As part of its Veterans Day activities, TSU hosted a performance by the world-renowned USAF Band of Mid-America’s Shades of Blue Jazz Ensemble in Kean Hall Monday evening. The concert was free and open to the public.
Fore more information about veteran services call 615-963-7001, or visit http://www.tnstate.edu/records/veteran/.
Department of Media Relations
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About Tennessee State University
With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.