Former Tuskegee Airman, Lowell Steward, died in a Ventura, CA hospital at the age of 95. Steward flew over 100 missions in Europe during World War II. Steward’s son, Lowell Jr. said that he passed away Wednesday from natural causes. Former national public relations officer for the Tuskegee Airmen, Ron Brewington, confirmed Steward’s passing.
Brought into the world on Feb. 25, 1919 in LA County, the former pilot graduated from Jefferson High School in 1937 and later on, Santa Barbara College in 1941 with a business degree. He marked the first black captain of the basketball team. He brought his team, the Guachos, to the championship game but was advised he would not be able to participate because he was black.
From there, he joined the ranks of the Army Air Corps, which later became the Army Air Force and then shortened to just Air Force. He was stationed in Alabama’s Tuskegee Army Air Field where he underwent basic training.
Steward was then assigned to the 100th Fighter Squadron in 1944 based in Italy. From the military base in Naples, Capodechino Air Base, Steward flew dozens of missions in P-40 Warhawks and P-39 Airacobras. In Ramitelli, Italy he flew in P-51 Mustangs conducting strafing and escort missions. He totaled 146 flight missions in Europe. His unit recorded three German ME-262 jet fighter kills in a single day in 1945. He later received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Lowell Steward Jr told the Times, after the 95-year-old Tuskegee Airmen died, that the pilot valued playing a part in the integration of the armed forces. The Tuskegee Airmen as a whole received an unremarkable level of oversight and scrutiny under the racial tones of that period. Steward would often say that because of the increased attention they would have to perform better than their white counterparts.
He received an honorable discharge in 1946. He then moved to Los Angeles, CA in search of a home. Despite his exemplary service his attempts to buy a home were consistently thwarted by banking officials denying access to home loans due to the color of his skin. Fed up with the closed doors, he took matters into his own hands and sought out means to finance his own home. He went to real estate school and later on became the first African American real estate agent in Los Angeles. He went to a successful 40 year career assisting other minorities in homeownership.
Stewart also assisted in establishing a Los Angeles chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. in 1974. He eventually served as the president of the LA chapter. His son later became president of the chapter but is reported to be stepping down to be replaced by Ron Brewington. The primary focus of the group is to preserve the fighter pilots’ legacy. Steward also established a scholarship in the name of the Tuskegee pilots.
At the capitol in 2007, Steward was one of the recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal awarded by then president, George W. Bush. Members of the airmen were awarded the prestigious award for their service and sacrifice.
95-year-old Tuskegee Airman, Lowell Steward, died and is survived by Lowell Jr. his son, his daughters Pamela Mills and Shelley Lambert, and his 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Steward’s wife, Helen, passed away in 2004. They were married 60 years. The funeral is scheduled for Monday at Angelus Funeral Home located at 3875 Crenshaw Blvd in Los Angeles. Immediately following will be the reception to be held at the Wilfandel Club at 3425 West Adams Blvd.
By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by Travis AFB – Flickr License