George Leward Washington ’25, MS ’30 – Mechanical Engineering (Course II)
Image: Courtesy MIT Museum

George Leward Washington
DOB – June 4, 1983

George Leward Washington ’25, MS ’30 earned his Bachelors (1925) and Masters (1930), both in Mechanical Engineering (Course II). He became the first black registered engineer in the state of North Carolina. Before World War II, he helped establish an Air Force training program for black pilots at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Washington later served as the director of special services for the United Negro College Fund.

From “Training at Tuskegee: Turning dreams into reality” by Randy Roughton, Air Force News Service, 11 February 2014

[A driving force in why the Army considered when choosing Tuskegee as the training site for African-American pilots] was George L. Washington [MIT Class of 1925], an engineer and director of mechanical industries and the Tuskegee Institute Division of Aeronautics, who was instrumental in bringing the primary flight training program to Tuskegee. He oversaw the construction, outfitting and expansion of Moton Field, and as general manager, he hired and supervised flight instructors, airplane maintenance personnel, and other support personnel, and ensured that cadets were properly housed and fed. While the Army looked at the training of African American pilots as an experiment, Washington didn’t see it that way.

“Acceptance of Negroes into the Air Corps for training as military pilots meant one thing for the Negro and another to the military establishment, and possibly white Americans,” Washington wrote in his unpublished papers that are kept in the Tuskegee University Archives. “For the Negro, it was an opportunity to further demonstrate his ability to measure arms with any other race, particularly white Americans, when given an equal opportunity. Performance in civilian aviation had certainly proven their ability to fly as individuals. And certainly, this had to be the prime requisite for success in military aviation. Therefore, this was just another in the long chain of demonstrations over many years. Certainly, this opportunity was far from being an experiment to the Negro.”

Sources:
BlackHistory.mit.edu
The New York Times

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