Azellia White 

“Mrs. White is a true trailblazer in the aviation industry and a role model for our students,” Sterling Aviation High School Principal Justin Fuentes said.  “She is a powerful reminder to students that they can be anything they want to be and achieve anything they want to achieve.  No one can stop them.” 

White learned how to fly at Moton Field in Tuskegee, where her husband, Hulon “Pappy” White, was working as an airplane mechanic with the famed Tuskegee Airmen.  The young African American pilots were eager to show her the ropes, she said.

Azellia White earned a private pilot’s license on March 26, 1946.  Once licensed, she flew often.

At the time, it was often dangerous for African Americans to travel from town to town, particularly in Southern states. Sometimes, she said, she and her niece would load into her small T-Craft and fly north from Tuskegee to Birmingham just to go shopping.

She still recalls the day in 1941 when the then-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt came to visit the airfield and asked, despite Secret Service objections, if she could fly with one of the African American pilots.  Chief Civilian Flight Instructor Charles Anderson - known today as the Father of Black Aviation - flew Roosevelt in the skies over Alabama for an hour before returning her to the airfield.

Though it’s been 76 years since the visit, Azellia White still remembers the first lady adamantly proclaiming: “Let those black boys fly.”

After World War II, Azellia and Pappy White returned to Houston to open Sky Ranch with fellow Tuskegee Airmen Ben Stevenson and Elton “Ray” Thomas.  Located on the historic Taylor-Stevenson Ranch, the airfield offered a flight training program, as well as charter flying and cargo services.  The three ranch owners would later go on to found the Bronze Eagles Flying Club.

Though Azellia White wasn’t considered a formal owner of Sky Ranch, she was a popular fixture at the airfield.  Young pilots in training often asked her to take them up.  Sometimes the mischievous daredevil would have a little fun, startling them with stunts.  “I’d pull my control up … and then let it down,” she said during an interview tape recorded several years ago, recalling how her passengers would start to holler.  “I told them, “We just done a little stunt.”  Now, she said, young pilots are more likely to be flying jets than the little T-Craft on which she trained.

Azellia white’s family understands why their matriarch doesn’t see herself as special - even if they do.  “It was just everyday life for them,” great niece Emeldia Bailey said, referring to Azellia and Pappy, who is now deceased.  “They don't really think of themselves as pioneers.  It was just the life they were living.”

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