Charles McGee was a decorated military pilot with the pioneering all-black Tuskegee Airman who heroically flew combat missions in three different wars. He passed away peacefully in his sleep on Sunday at the age of 102, said his family in a statement obtained by Reuters.
“He had his right hand over his heart and was smiling serenely,” said his oldest daughter Yvonne McGee in a statement released by a spokesperson.
McGee flew over 409 fighter combat missions during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
He first started his journey through the military ranks when he joined the Army Air Corps in 1942. At the ripe age of 23 he became one of the first black military aviators known as the Tuskegee Airmen and would go on to be one of only a few pilots to fly missions in all three wars.
In an interview with The Associated Press in 1995, McGee said “You could say that one of the things we were fighting for was equality. Equality for opportunity. We knew we had the same skills, or better.”
Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin shared their sentiments on Twitter, calling McGee an American Hero.
Charles McGee was promoted to the one-star rank of brigadier general under a congressional measure signed by then-President Donald Trump after he turned 100 years old.
McGee is survived by his three children, 10 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.