Lieutenant Colonel Luke J. Weathers, Jr.

Lieutenant Colonel Luke J. Weathers, Jr. the only child born to Jessie and Luke J. Weathers, Sr. in Grenada, MS, on December 16, 1920. In 1925, the Weathers family would reunite in Memphis, after the elder Weathers had previously moved to establish, own and operate the first African American grocery store with his uncle William “Bill” Weathers. Luke Jr., would later graduate from Booker T. Washington, Class of 1939, where he was an exceptional football player but nevertheless no sports opportunities were available beyond that Memphis football field. After high school he attended Xavier University in New Orleans, Lousiana to pursue an education for a career in the medicine field, but due to unforeseen circumstances he returned to Memphis were the dream in the medicine field would be short lived. However, he continued his education at Lane College in Jackson, TN. 

Luke’s life would change forever when he discovered a newspaper from another city where he read an article about the Tuskegee Project. Luke researched and vigorously pursued the opportunity to be a part of a program that launched African American men in military aviation. Luke’s mother, Jessie Weathers, was “the help” for a prominent Memphis which ultimately lead him to a meeting in the Mayor’s office where the Mayor of Memphis, literally, called the White House in his presence and told them he was sending Luke to the project. He went to Tuskegee and against all odds, trained and succeeded, to become one of the famed members of the Tuskegee 302nd Fighter Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group – also known as the “Red Tails” where he toured France, Germany, Italy and Africa. He earned The Distinguished Flying Cross, Seven Oak Leaf Clusters, American Theater Ribbon and WWII Victory Medal. In 2007, he would receive the Congressional Gold Medal with his other living counterparts. 

Upon returning to the United States Luke, Jr. became the first African American to receive the key to the City of Memphis and a parade on Beale Street which was held in his honor where 80,000 were in attendance. Luke would go on to become owner and operator of a flight school and he established a tailoring school under the Vocational Rehabilitation program in Jackson, TN. Luke Jr. also established the first ROTC program in the state of Tennessee at Manassas High School in Memphis. His professional career would land him in Alaska in 1960 to join the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), He later returned to the FAA Memphis Flight Service Station in 1945 to become the first African American air traffic specialist. His FAA career would span over a 25 year period from Memphis to Atlanta and ultimately to Washington, DC where he retired in 1985 after experiencing the air-traffic controllers (atc) strike under President Ronald Reagan which led to a record number of atc workers were terminated. 

After retirement, Mr. Weathers remained active in aviation by promoting equality for women in the military and aviation. He was a member of the West Coast Tuskegee Airman Chapter and remained loyal until his death as a member of the Phoenix Arizona Chapter. 

Lieutenant Colonel Luke J. Weathers Jr. earned his final wings October 15, 2011 and was finally laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery on January 21, 2012, the release day of the movie “Red Tails” in which he was depicted. Lieutenant Colonel. Luke J. Weathers Jr. was a distinguished man and left a legacy in aviation built on his high school motto, “We Lead and Others Follow.”

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