Viewing held in Northwest DC for national hero, Brigadier General Charles McGee

Lines of people snaked through the halls and rooms of the Joseph Gawler’s Sons funeral home in Northwest on Saturday, to pay their final respects to one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, Brigadier General Charles McGee, who died last month at the age of 102.

McGee died in his sleep at his home in Bethesda, Maryland on Jan. 16.

Those who knew him described him as “humble,” despite his many accomplishments.

“He’d been with several presidents,” his son Ronald told WTOP. “But it didn’t matter with dad, he could be with someone that was four years old or the president, and everyone was treated exactly the same.”

Ronald said his father would have been surprised by how many people came to the viewing, but he wasn’t, given the legacy McGee and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen left behind.

The Airmen played a pivotal role in integrating the U.S. Armed Forces in the face of discrimination and racism.

“If they hadn’t succeeded I don’t know where we would be, particularly as an African American family,” said Ronald. “But even just changing the Civil Rights movement and the things that followed that, they were instrumental.”

McGee joined the U.S. military during World War II, and in Oct. 1942 was sent to the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama as part of an experimental program for Black soldiers seeking to train as pilots after the Army Air Corps was forced to admit African Americans.

He flew 409 fighter combat missions over three wars.

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.

He also dedicated his life to mentoring young people.

“He was very committed to the community and to youth and their future,” said his friend Vincent Mickens. “He spent the rest of his life addressing that.”

A private funeral service for Brigadier General Charles McGee will take place on Sunday, Feb. 6, at the North Chevy Chase Christian Church.

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin joined WTOP in 2021 as an anchor/reporter covering breaking news in the D.C. region. She has loved radio since she was a child and is thrilled to now be part of Washington’s top radio news station.

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