A Richmond man who was one of the Tuskegee Airmen died Sunday following a long illness.
Frank Douglas Walker, 93, died peacefully at his home on East Main Street in Richmond, said his son, Charles Walker.
"It was his time," he said. "His health had been failing for a while."
Frank Walker was a fighter pilot in the Tuskegee Airmen, an African-American Army Air Corps program created in 1941. Members fought prejudice at home to become America's first black military aviators during World War II.
Never miss a local story.
Walker flew more than 50 missions in Europe. He was sent back to the United States after being injured when a P-47 he was piloting caught fire on a runway.
As a unit, the Tuskegee Airmen celebrated numerous achievements — more than 15,000 combat sorties, 150 enemy planes shot down, more than 1,000 planes, railcars and other vehicles destroyed on the ground, and one destroyer sunk.
However, it would be decades before the unit was recognized for its contributions.
In 2007, Walker was among 300 Airmen to receive a Congressional Gold Medal and recognition from then-President George W. Bush in Washington, D.C.
"They were hoping to be treated as equals as soon as they stepped off the boat," Charles Walker said. But when they got home, "the white folks went to the ticker-tape parade and the black folks went the other way."
Following his military service, Frank Walker returned to his hometown of Richmond, where he worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 32 years.
He was an avid player of chess, which the Tuskegee Airmen often played to pass the time between missions.
The younger Walker said his father never talked much about the war. He was a strict father who demanded his children get a good education and succeed.
"To us, he was just Dad," Charles Walker said.
Survivors, besides Charles Walker, include a sister, Ann Walker Collins; sons Frank Walker and James Walker; and a daughter, Eze Anetta Ballew.
Frank Walker was preceded in death by his wife of about 60 years, Mariella.
Visitation will be at 10 a.m. Friday, followed by funeral services at 11 a.m., all at First Baptist Church, 302 Francis Street in Richmond.
Davis & Powell Funeral Home in Berea is handling arrangements.