Hiram Emory Little
March of 1919 – February 18, 2017
Little was born March 31, 1919, in Eatonton and spent his childhood in Atlanta. He attended the David T. Howard school in Old Fourth Ward, the African-American school famously attended by Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1930s. At Howard, Little was a charter member of Boy Scout Troop 94, the first troop in an African-American school in Atlanta.
He enlisted in the Army Air Forces as part of the Tuskegee Aviation program in 1941, joining the 477th Bombardment Group in 1944. Though World War II ended before he could be deployed to combat, Little made a name for himself as part of the Freeman Field Mutiny.
While his unit was stationed at Freeman Army Airfield near Seymour, Ind., members of Little’s 477th Bombardment Group, black pilots, attempted to integrate an all-white officers’ club. When Little’s commander instructed the 477th to sign an order that they would cease all attempts to enter the club, 101 soldiers, including Little, refused. Many were shipped out to other bases and 162 were arrested, some twice. They would not be vindicated until 1995, when the Air Force officially set aside a soldier’s court-martialed conviction and removed letters of reprimand from the permanent files of 15 others.
Later in life, Little would remain committed to Civil Rights and participated in voter registration drives in Alabama and Mississippi during the 1960s.
Little was honorably discharged from the Army in 1945 and went on to graduate from Morehouse College and accept a job at the U.S. Postal Service. He later became one of Atlanta’s first African-American supervisors and was a middle-level manager with the postal service until his retirement in 1978.
But Little, who was described by those who knew him as an intelligent man always up for a challenge, wasn’t slowing down. He received a certificate of carpentry from Atlanta Technical College in 2005 at the age of 86 and remained active in Boy Scouts and the Atlanta veterans community until his death.
Little was honored along with all Tuskegee Airmen as a group with a bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007, presented by President George W. Bush. The original medal is on display at the Smithsonian.
“He was a person of magnanimous strength with an unimpeachable reputation for integrity, intelligence, fairness and kindness, and by the example he made of his life, he made this world a better place in which to live,” State Rep. Rhonda Burnough, D-Riverdale, read from an official Georgia General Assembly proclamation commemorating Little’s life and honoring his death.