As the U.S. anticipated entering World War II, it addressed the need for experience pilots by establishing Civil Pilot Training (CPT) programs at universities and airfields. Only a handful of now Historically Black Colleges and Universities, were selected, since no military arm existed at the time for African-Americans in aviation. Lincoln University was the only site serving Black pilots west of the Mississippi River. The Lincoln CPT program trained 50 pilots before the war began. Most of them went on to some form of military service, more than half in U.S. Army Air Corps. Three of these men ew combat missions in the Europe. Capt. Wendell Pruitt was an acclaimed acrobatic flyer from St. Louis. Capt. Richard Pullam became a squadron commander before the military was desegregated. And Lt. Wilbur Long spent the end of the war as a Prisoner of War in Poland. Several ground crew also made impressive contributions, like Sgt. Clovis Bordeaux, the first Lincolnite to join the U.S. Army Air Corps and eventually was a rocket scientist for Hughes Aircraft.
Please join Michelle Brooks as she has been studying the local history of Jefferson City and Lincoln University for more than 20 years, first as a reporter for the Jefferson City News Tribune and today as a published author.