Tuskegee Airman a success in both military and business|
2/7/2012 - FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (AFNS) -- A former Tuskegee Airman went on to have a career in the Air Force, as well as success in the business world.
Lee A. Archer joined the Army in 1941 with high hopes of becoming a pilot, but was initially denied because of his race. When the Army's policy changed about a year later, Archer was accepted to the training program for black aviators at the Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama.
Archer is best known for a day in late 1944 when he was involved in a series of dogfights over German-occupied Hungary. Flying a P-51 Mustang fighter, Archer shot down three German fighters. He would go on to add another German fighter to his credit to earn four victories during the war.
While flying with the 302nd Fighter Squadron, Archer flew 169 combat missions, flying cover and escorting long-range bombers over more than 11 countries, in addition to strafing missions against enemy land zones. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions. "I flew 169 combat missions when most pilots were flying 50," Archer told the Chicago Tribune in 2004. "When I came back to the U.S. and walked down that gangplank, there was a sign at the bottom: Colored troops to the right, white troops to the left..."
Archer would remain in the Army Air Corps and transition to the Air Force where he held post-war leadership and staff positions at SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe), NORAD and SOUTHCOM. He retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1970.
As a civilian, Archer enjoyed even greater success, serving as vice president for urban affairs with General Foods, as CEO of North Street Capital Corp. and chairman of Hudson Commercial Corp. He also served on the board of directors of Beatrice International Foods and the Institute for American Business.
In 2005, Archer and two other Tuskegee Airmen veterans visited Balad, Iraq, where they met more than 700 troops from a successor unit to his all-black fighter group. During the visit Archer told the Associated Press that "This is the new Air Force. Among a diverse group of whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders Archer said, "This is what America is."
In 2007, Archer and his surviving fellow Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush. He was asked to be a technical advisor to the George Lucas film "Red Tails," but would never get to see the film on the big screen. He passed away in New York on January 27, 2010.