Tuskegee Airman Clarence Jamison
Lt. Col. Clarence C. Jamison was a pioneering Tuskegee Airman, with 22-years of military service during and after World War II. His journey from Little Rock, Arkansas to Anzio, Italy and to Korea is one of historic firsts and heroic accomplishments.
While living in Chicago with an uncle and attending University of Chicago, Clarence learned about the Civilian Pilot Training Program, a United States Government sponsored program run under the auspices of General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold. The idea of the CPTP was to ready a supply of civilian pilots by offering free flight school training and licensing in case aviators were needed as American involvement with World War II became more of a possibility. Clarence completed his 72 hours of ground training and 50 hours of flight training, earning his civilian pilot’s license during 1940.
Clarence learned about the formation of the first African American squadron being formed by the United States Army Air Force. Realizing that the program offered the opportunity for Clarence to serve as an officer, he applied to the Tuskegee Army Airfield training program. After hearing nothing about his application status, Clarence wrote a personal letter to First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt who had been a vocal supporter of the cause. While Clarence never received a direct letter back, five weeks after writing to Mrs. Roosevelt, he was accepted into the Tuskegee program and believed with certainty that the First Lady had intervened on his behalf. He was accepted as a cadet and enlisted on August 21, 1941.
On April 29, 1942, Clarence graduated from the Tuskegee Army Air Field. His class, SE-42-D, was only the second class to graduate the program. Of the 13 men who started with his class, only 3 would graduate: Sidney P. Brooks, Charles W. Dryden, and Clarence Jamison. Despite being ready to serve, it would take several more classes of graduates before the 99th Fighter Squadron had the prerequisite number of pilots to officially form. During the wait, the pilots continued to train and prepare.
Finally, during April of 1943, the 99th Fighter Squadron, including then Captain Jamison, went to North Africa and would fly the first ever combat mission with African American pilots on June 2, 1943. The mission was the liberation of the Pantelleria Island from the German Army. Its success was a victory both for the Allied efforts abroad and the beginnings of the modern Civil Rights Era in America. He would go on to fly a total of 67 combat missions.
Clarence Jamison retired from the military in 1963 with the rank of Lt. Colonel including service during the Korean War. His finance and accounting experience he learned during his post-World War II military career was put to good use for another 23 years, with Lt. Col. Jamison eventually retiring from a career at the Social Security Administration.