Luke Weathers, Jr.
December 16, 1920 – October 15, 2011
Unit 332nd Fighter Group
Weathers was born December 16, 1920, in Grenada, Mississippi. Defying social norms was already a family trait when Luke was born. At the time, the town’s railroad track served as the economic dividing line. The relationship between Weather’s mixed-race father and black mother defied that dividing line, which led Weathers’ family to move to Memphis, where they worked in a grocery store.
Years later, Weathers was studying biology at Lane College in Jackson, Tenn., when he stumbled on an article in an international newspaper about the Tuskegee Experiment, the federal government’s name for the Army Air Corps training of African Americans.
His mother turned to the prominent Memphis family she worked for and, with the help of the family’s connections, Weathers was considered and eventually accepted into their program.
Weathers flew P-51 and P-39 fighters during his service from 1942 to 1945, in one combat flight, German aircraft were pursuing him and firing. He was
forced to dip down and make a few turns in his plane to keep from getting shot. Weathers earned a Distinguished Flying Cross, according to the National Guard Bureau. The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to a member of the United States Armed Forces who distinguishes himself or herself by showing heroism and extraordinary achievement in an aerial flight.
Although undeniably the greatest pilots and crew efforts in military history, the Tuskegee Airmen were not allowed to participate in the victory parade held in New York celebrating the end of WWII. They were transported secretly to a secluded train terminal for transport.
When his WWII tour ended, Luke J. Weathers, Jr. was promoted to Captain and returned to his alma mater, Tuskegee University, in order to share his experience as an instructor.
June 25, 1945 was called Luke J. Weathers Day in Memphis. This was an honor that had never been bestowed on an African American in the city of Memphis.
A parade headed down Beale Street and Main and ended in Handy Park. Speeches were made and a key to the city was given to Captain Weathers. This was also the first time that an African-American ever received such an honor in the city of Memphis. A dance followed with music provided by the Navy Air Station Band.
During the celebration with family and friends, young Captain Weathers noticed a young woman named LaVerne. The young woman later became Captain Weathers’ wife. The wedding took place on Wednesday July 13, 1947. From that union they had five children.
In 1960, after strenuous testing, Weathers was accepted for employment in the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) as an Air Traffic Controller.
His first duty assignment was in Anchorage, AK. Shortly after he was transferred to Galena, AL. Later Weathers was transferred to Nashville, TN.
Eventually in 1965 Lt. Col. Luke J. Weathers, Jr. became the first African American Air Traffic Controller in Memphis, TN.
Weathers also held FAA positions in Atlanta, GA and Washington D.C. where he eventually retired after serving as a reservist in the military for twenty-three years in 1985.
Luke J. Weathers III made an excellent tribute to his father when he said; “We will never forget what he has given us, as a father, a hero (and) as a man.”