Tuskegee Airman and Congressional Gold Medal Recipient George Mitchell, K6ZE, SK
ARRL Life Member, long-time Amateur Radio operator and Tuskegee Airman George T. Mitchell, K6ZE, of San Diego, California, died September 4. He was 94. During World War II Mitchell taught Morse code to the pioneering black aviators known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
In 2007, Mitchell was among the group of Tuskegee Airmen veterans to belatedly receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the United States’ highest civilian award, for his wartime service. African-American servicemen had been barred from training as military pilots until the Roosevelt Administration, faced with a federal lawsuit and mounting protests, opened an aviation school at Tuskegee Institute, a traditionally black college in Alabama.
“The world looked at us as second-class citizens,” Mitchell said in a San Diego Union-Times 2003 interview about his time with the Tuskegee Airmen. “We knew we were in a fishbowl. We knew we couldn't fail.” Some 450 Tuskegee fighter pilots flew more than 15,000 sorties over North Africa and Europe during the war. The story of the Tuskegee Airmen was the subject of a 1995 film.
A Philadelphia native, Mitchell, who got into ham radio at the age of 12, belonged to several Amateur Radio organizations, including the OMIK Amateur Radio Association, the Air Force Flyers Club, the Old Old Timers Club, and the Quarter Century Wireless Association (QCWA), from which he received a 75-year certificate in 2012.
Following the war, Mitchell went to work as a civilian engineer for the US Navy. He retired to San Diego, but subsequently returned to work on the sea, this time for the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. He frequently spoke to school and civic groups about the role the Tuskegee Airmen played in the nation's history.
Survivors include his widow, D'Andrea Mitchell, and children, actor Brian Stokes Mitchell, George Mitchell, Richard Mitchell, Lorna Mitchell, and stepsons Deon and Robert Coons. Arrangements are pending. — Thanks to John Bigley, N7UR/Nevada Amateur Radio Newswire and media accounts