Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, a legendary World War II hero and member of the historic Tuskegee Airmen, died over the weekend in New York, NBC 4 reports. He was 94 years old.
Brown flew in 68 combat missions for the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American pilots in U.S. history, but he was also a committed to public service as an educator and university leader.
He was part of the longest mission flown by the air force in World War II, traveling over 1,500 miles from Italy to Berlin to take down a slew of German jets.
In a 2011 interview with NBC 4, Brown spoke fondly of his time as a pilot in the military.
“I didn’t understand the brutality of the Civil War, but when I was a Tuskegee Airman, I knew that I was good, I knew that I had to challenge the system, and I loved to fly,” he said.
Following World War II, Brown received his Ph.D. in education and taught at New York University, CBS New York reports. He held a lifetime commitment to public service as an educator.
For 17 years he was president of Bronx Community College and was also a professor at CUNY’s Graduate Center where he held the position as director of the Center for Urban Education Policy.
For many years he hosted a segment titled “African-American Legends,” on CUNY’s public affairs channel.
CUNY released a statement on Monday paying homage to Dr. Brown:
“It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, Jr, former President of Bronx Community College, who served his country with great distinction in World War II as one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen and later as a leading champion for civil rights. During his 17 years of exemplary service as president, Dr. Brown intensified the College’s outreach to New York City’s economic and educational institutions through partnerships with business and industry. With his leadership, new programs were developed in high growth professions in the fields of health, technology and human services. He later joined The City University of New York Graduate Center as University Professor and Director of the Center for Urban Education Policy. Dr. Brown for many years hosted “African American Legends,” a public affairs show produced by CUNY TV. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family.”
Dr. Brown was also very physically active — he participated in the New York City Marathon nine times, and enjoyed two hometown teams, the Jets and the Mets.
But, during the winter he fell ill and had a pacemaker installed at Montefiore Medical Center, according to NBC 4.
“If he wasn’t as healthy and in such great shape, he probably wouldn’t have made it through this,” Brown’s physician, Dr. Daniel Sims, told NBC 4 New York. “Most 94-year-olds are not this active, but Dr. Brown is just remarkable,” he said.
Brown’s family posted a thank you message to supporters on Monday:
Brown’s message of resilience to young people in a 2011 interview with NBC 4, spoke wisdom and insight. He told reporter Tracie Strahan the following:
“My message to young people is to keep on working. You’ve got to be better, you’ve got to be disciplined, you’ve gotta believe. And if you believe you can overcome, you can overcome. That’s the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.”
Rest in power, Dr. Brown.