FORT WORTH, Texas - Dozens of people packed into Shiloh Baptist Church in Fort Worth on Thursday to pay their final respects to Robert McDaniel and his place in history as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.
McDaniel was drafted into the Army in 1943 and served as a fighter pilot providing cover for bombers and war-ships.
Despite serving their country, McDaniel and others weren’t allowed in certain areas and military facilities where only white officers were allowed.
“They wanted to go into the officers’ club. Unfortunately, he was denied the right to go in because of his race,” said McDaniel’s son, Robert Mennefee.
In 1945, McDaniel and 100 others refused to sign papers stating they understood and accepted those rules and were put under house arrest and later court-martialed for what was seen as an act of defiance.
“That act of civil disobedience in a nation at war directly led to President Truman signing Executive Order 9981 desegregating our military,” said Brigadier General (Ret.) Leon Johnson, president of Tuskegee Airmen Inc.
McDaniel went on to graduate from Prairie View A&M and started his career as an educator At Fort Worth ISD, where he also served as a counselor, coach, vice principal and eventually a principal.
“He was an educator, not just a hero,” said Ross McCourtie, portrait artist. “He was brave, very honorable, he was principal of Morningside. He just had a lot of integrity, he was a man of integrity.”
McDaniel was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Freedom in 2007 and he was also a guest at President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.
On Thursday he was honored once more with a procession and burial fitting for a military hero with a long-lasting legacy others can learn from.
“By remembering to never sign away your rights. He refused to sign away the ability to go into that club. He was arrested for it, denied the ability to go in but things changed because he refused to sign a piece of paper,” Mennefee said.
McDaniel’s family has established a donation fund in his memory that will go towards helping high school students buy books. They say the fund honors McDaniel’s service and dedication as an educator.