Herven Exum
November 6, 1921 – August 18, 2013
Class: 44-I-1-TE
Graduation date: 10/16/1944
Rank at time of graduation: Flt. Officer
Service # T66409
From: Wilson NJ

Exum was the fifth of 10 children born to John E. and Cora Artis Exum at the family homestead near Eureka, N.C., where his ancestors had lived off the land as farmers since the late 1800s. His great-grandfather was an immigrant from the Bahamas whose wife was Cherokee. As a youth, Exum tilled fields with a mule-pulled plow and fetched water from a well.

“We raised our own food, mostly,” said his brother and only surviving immediate relative, Eurmal DuBois Exum. “Chickens. Hogs. Black-eyed peas. Sweet potatoes.”

After high school, Herven Exum left home and trained in his uncle’s funeral home to become a mortician.

When the war began, Exum joined the Army and qualified for special service: the Tuskegee program. Prejudice held at the time that black men would never be capable of piloting sophisticated aircraft. Exum, and the hundreds like him who completed the arduous training, demonstrated otherwise.

Recalling his choice to fly planes during the war, Exum told his family: “I was not married and had no children, therefore I had nothing to lose and took chances.”

According to his family, Exum first flew a P-47 Thunderbolt, a single-engine fighter plane. Exum later trained to fly twin-engine aircraft, likely the B-25 bomber.

Historical records of Exum’s service indicate only that he trained on multi-engine planes and graduated from Tuskegee as a flight officer on Oct. 16, 1944. No Tuskegee bombers were deployed in World War II.

Exum was proud of his service but did not often talk about his experiences with his family. Much of his war record remains a mystery, his brother said.

“You don’t want to think about what you saw,” said Eurmal Exum, who served during the Korean War. “You got to keep a lot of things to yourself.”

His family said Exum later flew Air Force jets on combat missions in the Korean War. In the late 1950s, he performed in air shows as H.P. “Hot Pilot” Exum. During Vietnam, he flew injured troops to hospitals in Japan and Guam as a contractor.

When he later moved to the District, Exum drove cabs and worked as an air traffic controller. For a time, he worked as a commercial airline pilot in Canada.

Exum was buried at Quantico National Cemetery wearing a red blazer in honor of his Tuskegee service.

Source: Washington Post

Coast Guard Lt. Tyler Exum poses for a photo with wings that belonged to his great-uncle, Herven P. Exum, a Tuskegee Airman, during a winging ceremony at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, June 23, 2023. Exum and his father, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Larnell B. Exum, reflect on the significance of the wings and their family’s military legacy. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Corinne Zilnicki)


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