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Tuskegee Airman, Congressional Gold Medal Recipient Julius T. Freeman, KB2OFY, SK

08/09/2016

Tuskegee Airman and Congressional Gold Medal recipient Julius T. Freeman, KB2OFY, of Spring Garden, New York, died on July 22 after suffering a heart attack. He was 89. Originally from Lexington, Kentucky, Freeman served during World War II as a medic with the famed 332nd Tuskegee Airmen. He was a frequent speaker at schools and civic organizations.

When Freeman returned home after his wartime service, he was dismayed to find that widespread segregation and the Jim Crow Era persisted. As a personal protest, he discarded his Army uniform and military memorabilia, not acknowledging his military service again until many years later.

A flamboyant and highly successful car salesman, Freeman began his career at a Columbus, Ohio, Hudson Motorcar dealership; during the war, Freeman had saved the grateful owner’s son’s life. So successful was Freeman in this venture that he became the first Black spokesperson to appear in TV commercials in Ohio. In 1954, he was lured to New York with hopes of greater success, but he found no jobs for African-American car salesmen. So, he went to work emptying trash cans on the graveyard shift at the Empire State Building.

A few years later, though, he broke back into auto sales, again achieving success. In 1977 he sold more than $1 million worth of Lincolns. Freeman also became the car salesman to such African-American celebrities as Sammy Davis Jr, James Brown, Dick Gregory, Joe Louis, and Wilson Pickett. He retired in 2008, although he appeared in a 2015 commercial for a Long Island Honda dealership.

In 2007 President George W. Bush awarded Freeman and the other "Red Tails" the Congressional Gold Medal, although Freeman was too ill to attend the ceremony, which honored the estimated 16,000 or more Tuskegee Airmen. Freeman once again embraced his military past, visiting schools and educating youth about the role that the Tuskegee Airmen had played.

A Technician licensee, Freeman had been an ARRL member in the 1990s. — Thanks to John Bigley, N7UR/Nevada Amateur Radio Newswire 



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