From the African American Registry

Chauncey Spencer was born on this date in 1906. He was an African-American pilot and educator.

At the age of 11, he fell in love with flying, but after graduating from college, no aviation school in Virginia would admit him because of his color. Spencer moved to Chicago in 1934 and joined with a group of African American aviators in organizing the National Airmen Association of America (NAAA). Working for $16-a-week as a kitchen helper, he paid $11 an hour for flying lessons.

In May 1939, he and fellow aviator Dale Lawrence White  flew a rented biplane with only two flight instruments on a ten-city tour that started in Chicago and ended in Washington, DC. Their flight drew national attention and proved that African Americans could fly an airplane, contrary to the beliefs and opinions of most Army Air Corps and government leaders.

They met with Harry Truman and others in Congress, convincing them to support their cause. [Spencer fought] for fair treatment of African American air cadets being trained at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and other air bases during World War II. He encountered considerable resistance from whites as well as blacks….

Chauncey Spencer Airman

Airman Chauncey Spencer was falsely accused, during the McCarthy era, of being a Communist, because he advocated for racial integration of the U.S. Air Force.

Despite this, he persisted and made steady progress towards integration of the Air Force. In 1948, Spencer received the Exceptional Civilian Service Award for service during World War II, the highest honor the Air Force could bestow upon a civilian.

…His refusal to drag his feet on integration created resentment among highly-placed officials who wished to see integration fail. Consequently, in 1953, Spencer was charged with disloyalty and accused of being a Communist. He was relieved of his position and his family suffered great humiliation and economic deprivation. In June 1954 the Air Force cleared him of all charges. Spencer and his family would never fully recover from this ordeal.

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