I took my first flight at Alexander Aircraft. It was 1927, I was four. My babysitters Erma and Hazel Warden had pilot boyfriends. Of course, I could not stay on the ground when they took a ride. Like any good babysitter, they put me in the back seat of that Alexander Eaglerock Biplane. From that day on, I knew I would fly.
My name is Franklin J. Macon, Documented Original Tuskegee Airman. I grew up right here in Colorado Springs on Pine Street. Today, I-25 goes through town where my house sat. The train tracks were in our backyard. I went to Bristol Elementary, North Junior, and Colorado Springs High School. You know it as Palmer High School. I am in their Hall of Fame which is funny. I really did not like school. I was terrible at it! I even repeated second grade. You see, I am dyslexic. Back in those days, no body knew what that was. Some people just thought I was dumb, but I showed them.
My birth mother (Eva Banks) was only 14 when I was born, so I was raised by two great aunts. Maude Estella Gray Macon (Mama) and Ella Gray (Aunt LaLa). My grandfather Charles Banks was a Buffalo Soldier. The great grandmother of Mama, Aunt LaLa and Clara (Eva’s mother) was half-sister to Frederick Douglass, the Great Orator. My only father figure, Frank Loper married Mama when I was a young boy. Frank Loper was born a slave on Jefferson Davis’ Plantation. He came to Colorado Springs with the Hayes-Davis family a free man. Our families remain friends to this day.
I worked in Jack Hanthorn’s shop after school to make money for flying lessons. “Flying” off the chicken house was not working. Leo Schuth and Dorothy Jones taught me to fly in the Civil Air Patrol. By the time I had graduated high school, I had soloed at Pine Valley airstrip which today is the Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Airfield at the USAFA.
Thanks to Dorothy and Leo, I learned about Tuskegee. I wanted to fly, so I headed off to Tuskegee…TWICE. You will have to read why in my book.
I have met the likes of Dr. George Washington Carver and spent time in his lab. As a kid, I almost blew up the near Westside neighborhood with my carbide rocket. I was awarded the Tuskegee Airmen Congressional Gold Medal. For over 25 years, I have eaten breakfast and lunch at the Western Omelette on Walnut Street. I helped fabricate The Pyramid statue, “Follow the Setting Sun” outside the Pioneer Museum. At 95, I published I Wanted to be a Pilot: The Making of a Tuskegee Airman to share my childhood in Colorado Springs. In 2019, I donated my 1944 Stinson Vultee V-77 “Gullwing” aircraft to the National Museum of World War II Aviation. Currently, I am one of the two living Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen (DOTA) and one of the Past Presidents of the Hubert L. “Hooks” Jones Chapter, Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.
Just think… If I can do that, a dyslexic boy from the Near Westside of Colorado Springs, just think what you can do!
Generously Submitted by Mr. Franklin Macon & Elizabeth Harper