Tuskegee Airman William E. Broadwater Dies at 89

by: Monica Smith Special to the AFRO
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Tuskegee Airman William E. Broadwater (Courtesy Photo)

William E. Broadwater, a Tuskegee Airman, died at the age of 89 on Sept. 22.

A native of Bryn Mawr, PA, Broadwater developed a desire to fly at a young age due, in part, to the influence of his hometown’s legendary aviator, C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson. Broadwater called himself a young guy, because he was inducted into the Army weeks after his 18th birthday. He completed Basic Training at Keesler Field, MS and arrived in Tuskegee in May 1944.

Broadwater and 82 classmates commenced primary flight training in the open cockpit Stearman (PT-17) at Moton Field on Dec 29, 1944. Broadwater remembers a lot of guys got “washed out” of, or eliminated from training due to poor performance. By March 14, 1945 only 60 trainees moved onto Tuskegee Army Airfield for the basic and advanced phases of training. There were 37 graduates in class 45-E on August 4th: 19 single-engine (SE) pilots; and 18 (Broadwater included) twin-engine (TE) B-25 pilots. Plans to deploy B-25 crew members to Guam in September were canceled; the war ended and many Airmen were declared excess to the Army’s needs.

After separating from the Army Air Forces as a second lieutenant in 1946, Mr. Broadwater returned to Pennsylvania where he flew out of PATCO Field in Norristown. He completed high school in 1948 and enrolled in college at Temple, part time. In 1951 Mr. Broadwater began work as an air traffic controller with the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) in the Department of Commerce. The CAA became a separate agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, in 1957. Broadwater excelled in various high level positions, then retired from the FAA in 1980, after which he worked as an aviation consultant.

Mr. Broadwater was one of the original organizers of what became known as Tuskegee Airmen in May 1973. Elected TAI’s second national president in 1976, Broadwater presented the organization’s first annual Medal of Achievement to General Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr., an instructor pilot at Tuskegee Army Airfield during the war, whose career culminated as Commander, North American Air Defense Command (NORAD).

For decades Broadwater spoke tirelessly about the Airmen’s accomplishments and encouraged youth to pursue careers in aviation. He continued flying and proudly built up 3000 hours in Douglas DC-3; Gulfstream II; Beechcraft Baron, Bonanza, King Air and Queen Air; Piper Cub, Super Cub and Cherokee 6; Stearman PT-17 biplane; and North American B-25 Mitchell aircraft, among others.

Broadwater joined almost 400 original Airmen in the Capitol Rotunda on March 29, 2007 where the Tuskegee Airmen were collectively awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush. Broadwater told a reporter, “This day means that we have recognition at the national level, even 60 years later, that we accomplished something important.” Few Airmen would have believed they would return to Capitol Hill less than two years later to witness the inauguration of America’s first black president, or for a movie night in the White House to view George Lucas’ Red Tails in 2012.

When he was 85, Mr. Broadwater piloted a B-25 nicknamed “Panchito” out of Sussex County Airport in Georgetown, Delaware. After Broadwater landed the B-25, he smiled and exclaimed, “It was terrific. The most fun I’ve had in five years. The last time I flew.”

A memorial service will be held on Oct. 12 from 1:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Fort Lincoln Funeral Home. 3401 Bladensburg RD, Brentwood, Maryland.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the East Coast Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. (ECCTAI) where a Broadwater grant is being established to help students pursuing careers in aviation. Donations should be made payable to “ECCTAI,” with “Broadwater Grant” written in the comments, and sent to P.O. Box 8541, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C. 20032-8541.

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