Home

Black News and News Makers in History: Willa Brown Chappell

African American news from Pasadena - Black News and News Makers in History recognizes Willa Brown Chappell this week in Black history.Willa Beatrice Brown was born on January 22, 1906 in Glasgow, Kentucky. In 1927, she earned a B.A. from Indiana Teachers College.

Inspired by aviatrix Bessie Coleman, who was the first black American woman to earn an International license to fly then return to the United States, Willa started taking flying lessons in 1934 at Chicago's Aeronautical University. Soon she became a member of the Challenger Air Pilot's Association and the Chicago Girls Flight Club and purchased her own airplane.

In 1937, Brown earned a master's degree in business administration from Northwestern University.

In 1938, Brown earned her private pilot's license with a near perfect score, making her the first African American woman to earn a United States license to fly. That same year, she co-founded the National Airmen's Association of America, an organization whose mission was to get African Americans into the United States Air Force.

In 1939, she received a commercial pilot's license. She was the first African American woman to make a career of aviation and, according to biographer Betty K. Gumbert, was the person most responsible for preparing African American pilots for World War II.

In 1940, she and Lieutenant Cornelius R. Coffey started the Coffey School of Aeronautics, where approximately 200 pilots were trained in the next seven years. Some of those pilots later became part of the 99th Pursuit Squadron at Tuskegee Institute—also known as the legendary "Tuskegee Airmen." Willa's efforts were directly responsible for the squadron's creation, which led to the integration of the military in 1948.

With the establishment of the Coffey School of Aeronautics, Brown fulfilled Bessie's long standing dream of an African American-owned private flight school.

In 1941, promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, she became the first African-American officer in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), and the U.S. government named her federal coordinator of the CAP Chicago unit.

Brown also lobbied Washington for the inclusion of African Americans in the Civilian Pilot Training Program and the Army Air Corps. In 1942, she became a training coordinator for the Civil Aeronautics Administration and a teacher in the Civilian Pilot Training Program.

In 1943, Brown enrolled in the Aeronautical University in Chicago and earned a Master Mechanic Certificate. By adding her mechanic's license, Willa became the first woman in the United States to have both a mechanic's license and a commercial pilot's license.

In 1946, Brown became the first African American woman to run for Congress.

In 1955, Brown married Rev. J.H. Chappell and became very active in the West Side Community Church in Chicago.

In 1972, she was appointed to the Federal Aviation Administration Women's Advisory Board in recognition of her contributions to aviation in the United States as a pilot, an instructor, and an activist.

She died on July 18, 1992 at the age of 86.

In 2003, Willa Brown Chappell was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame for her native state of Kentucky.

Aviator, politician, educator and activist, Will Brown drew strength and inspiration from the life work of her courageous predecessor, Bessie Coleman.

Compiled from http://www.ket.org/trips/aviation/chappell.htm and http://womenaviators.org/WillaBrown.html.

 
Banner
Banner

Get our news by email!

Please be sure to add pasadenajournal.com to your approved senders list before subscribing! Learn More
Unsubscribe any time

Search the Journal

Login

Some sections of our site are for registered and/or paid subscribers only. Please login or create an account.



To post Comments, submit events or access Article Archives you must be a registered member:

Banner

Missing Something?

Did you know you can get the Pasadena Journal weekly print publication for more news and information?

Read more...

Black News and News Makers in History

4/24/1884: National Medical Association of Black Physicians organizes in Atlanta, GA.

4/24/1944: Bill Pickett, cowboy, bulldogging rodeo event creator, & Wild West Show star, dies. Read More.

4/25/1918: Ella Fitzgerald, "First Lady of Song," born. Read More.

4/25/1950: Charles "Chuck" Cooper, athlete, first African American drafted by NBA team Boston Celtics.

4/26/1844: Jim Beckwourth, explorer, fur trader, mountain man, discovered path through Sierra Nevadas. Beckwourth Pass (U.S. Alt 40 between Reno, NV & Sacramento, CA) made overland travel to gold fields possible.

4/26/1886: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Blues musician, born.

4/27/1903: W.E.B. DuBois, sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, editor, author, published "The Souls of Black Folk", crystallizing opposition to Booker T. Washington's program of social and political subordination.

4/27/1903: Maggie L. Walker named president of Richmond's St. Luke Bank and Trust Company, becoming first Black woman to head a bank.

4/27/1927: Coretta Scott, civil rights activist, born.

4/28/1924: Don Redman, musical prodigy, multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, vocalist & bandleader, first to use oboe as jazz instrument in "After the Storm" solo.

4/29/1945: Richard Wright, author, book, 'Black Boy,' reaches first place on National Best Seller Book List.

4/30/1863: Sarah Thompson Garnet, educator, becomes first African American female principal in New York City public school system.

4/30/1926: Bessie Coleman, first Black woman pilot, dies during Jacksonville FL Negro Welfare League exhibition. Read More.