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Celebrating African-Americans in aviation

11:32 PM, Feb 16, 2011   |    comments
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A new display at the Wings over the Rockies Museum in Lowry shows visitors there's much more to that history.

Robert Shelton and other members of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity worked with Colorado's official air and space museum to highlight some of those stories.

"Like Eugene Bullard who flew with the French in WWI in 1917 and stunt pilot Bessie Coleman in 1921. She [Coleman] was discriminated against and had to go to France to get her pilot's license," Shelton said.

Shelton himself is a part of that history, with 40 years of flying experience. He started flying in the 1950s after the Tuskegee Airmen broke down a racial barrier in the U.S. Armed Forces in the 1940s.

"Anyone who has ever dreamed of flying can understand why some of the first African- American pilots went to great lengths for that opportunity," Shelton said. "I flew over 20 years in the Air Force and then 20 years with the FAA."

Shelton, now a retired manger of the FAA Flight Standards Office in Denver worked with three other Kappa Alpha Psi members to get the display to Denver.

"The brothers and I decided we needed to display some of the black history in aviation. I'm very proud of it," Shelton said.

Wings over the Rockies Chief Operating Officer Jeff Holwell was on board immediately.

"This is a perfect match for us because in this exhibit they're recognizing aviators, airmen and astronauts that have been important in American history," Holwell said.

The "History of Blacks in Aviation" display will be at the Wings Over the Rockies Museum at least through the end of February.

The Smithsonian in Washington D.C. gave permission for the use of the many historical pictures.

To learn more about the display, please visit

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