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Tuskegee Airmen Robert Williams is a part of Ottumwa’s black history

Published: Feb. 11, 2021 at 9:08 AM CST
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OTTUMWA, Iowa (KYOU) - Robert Williams also known as Bob Williams, is one of the well-known Tuskegee Airmen pilots that fought in WWII.

Born in Ottumwa, Iowa in 1922 he grew up in a home along Ogden and North Cooper Street. He had had a father who was a pilot as well and he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Geraldine Winston whose mother grew up with Williams says history was made once he joined the military.

“Bob went to the military, the Army, during the war. That’s how he ended up in Tuskegee and that’s how the Tuskegee Airmen had started.”

The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of segregated black men located in Tuskegee, Alabama trained to become pilots with the help of President Roosevelt.

After fighting for their country the men came back to the U.S. to face prejudice.

“The white did not acknowledge them, but when it comes to the planes and the white airmen being shot down, they asked for the Tuskegee Airmen. They never lost a plane all those years they were down there in the war. They still had the prejudice with them but they accepted that so they could live.”

Winston says after Williams several failed attempts at getting his story out, he finally got a movie made.

“He wanted this movie made about his life, none of the movie companies would take it, MGM, but then probably 10-15 years ago HBO finally gave him the chance to tell his story.”

She says he went to the studio every day to tell his story despite battling cancer.

Williams lost that fight in September 1997 at the age of 75.

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