‘Living legend’: former Tuskegee Airman pilot dies at 102 in Bethesda home

The Four P’s, “Perceive, Prepare, Perform, and Persevere,” were Charles McGee’s mantra; the decorated Tuskegee Airman pilot died at 102 in his Bethesda, Maryland, home on Sunday morning. He completed 409 air combat missions in his career.

McGee was one of the last surviving pilots from the Tuskegee Airmen — a group of African American pilots who were credited not only for their service in World War II, but also for breaking barriers.

Of the 355 Tuskegee pilots, McGee was one of only 8 remaining pilots who flew in combat.

General McGee also flew in the North Korea and Vietnam wars for 30 years after his service in World War II, according to a news release.

In 1951, McGee was the Commander of the 44th Fighter Bomber Squadron in the Philippines. In 1972, he became the first Black Commander of the Richard-Gebaur Missouri Air Reserve Base.

Since retiring around 50 years ago, he was presented with the Congressional gold medal by President George W. Bush, became a part of the National Aviation Hall of Fame and received many other honors.

But McGee didn’t just spend the last half of a century winning awards. In fact, his family says he had some of his best experiences during the last three years of his life.

To celebrate his 99th and 100th birthdays, he flew three state-of-the-art business jets.

His final trip was on his 102 birthday on Air Force T-37 VIP Air Transport from Joint Base Andrews to visit the 99th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, according to a news release. It was also announced that a next generation jet trainer will pay homage to the Tuskegee Airmen with a red tail.

McGee’s family said in a statement that he was a “living legend known for his kind-hearted, and humble nature, who saw positivity at every turn.”

McGee is survived by his children Charlene, Ronald, and Yvonne McGee, and his 10 grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren and 1 great great grandchild.

His youngest daughter, Yvonne McGee, lived with him and was nearby when he died, according to a news release.

“He had his right hand over his heart and was smiling serenely,” Yvonne said.

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

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