Oscar Lawton “Wilk” Wilkerson, native Chicagoan and Tuskegee Airman, pauses for a photo during the Army Reserve’s 85th Support Command’s African American/Black History Month observance at their unit headquarters, Feb. 7. During the observance, Wilkerson discussed his experiences in the service and held a questions and answers portion with the soldiers there. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Berogan/Released)

Oscar Lawton Wilkerson, Jr.
February 9, 1926 –
Class: 45-F-TE 9/8/1945 2nd Lt. 0843249 Chicago Hgts. IL
Unit: 617th Bombardment Squadron of the 477th Bombardment Group

Tuskegee Airman and radio programming executive Oscar Lawton Wilkerson Jr. was born on February 9, 1926 in Chicago Heights, Illinois to Oscar L. and Elizabeth Wilkerson. After his graduation from Bloomfield Township High School in 1944, Wilkerson entered the U.S. Army Air Force’s Aviation Cadet training program in Tuskegee, Alabama. He was assigned to the 617th Bombardment Squadron, where he was trained to fly the B-25 “Billy Mitchell” bomber.

Wilkerson received his commission as a 2nd lieutenant and his “wings” as a B-25 pilot in 1946.

In 1947, he graduated from the New York Institute of Photography. Wilkerson also graduated from the Midwest Broadcasting School in 1960. Wilkerson became a weekend disc jockey and community relations director at WBEE-AM in Harvey, Illinois in 1962. As an on-air personality, he was known as “Weekend Wilkie.” As community relations director, he launched a weekly radio show hosted by Chicago Alderman Charles Chew, as well as publicity campaigns for the NAACP, the Chicago Urban League, the Committee of 100 and other organizations. Wilkerson was promoted to the position of program director at WBEE in 1965. Under Wilkerson’s supervision, WBEE launched the radio career of Merri Dee, who became known as “Merri Dee, the Honey Bee.” In 1969, he oversaw the station’s switch to a more jazz-oriented format, and took on the additional responsibilities of operations manager. Wilkerson also hosted his own program, Wilk’s World, on weekday mornings. Wilkerson left WBEE in 1971 to become the public affairs director at WMAQ Radio. In that role, he was responsible for all public service material aired on the station. Wilkerson was named program director at WMAQ in 1973, and served there until his retirement in 1988.

Following his retirement, Wilkerson served as president of the Multi Media Ministry at New Faith Baptist Church in Matteson, Illinois. He is one of the “Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen” (DOTAs), and is active in the Chicago “DODO” chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc., helping minority and at-risk youth fly for free through the “Young Eagles” program.

Wilkerson regularly visits schools around the United States to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. He lives in Markham, Illinois.

*Note: The 617th Bombardment Squadron was one of four Tuskegee Airmen bomber squadrons during WWII that made up the 477th Bombardment Group. The 477th Bombardment Group and its assigned 616th, 617th, 618th, and 619th Bombardment Squadrons, never deployed overseas for combat during World War II.

In 2007, the 477th Bombardment Group became the 477th Fighter Group, bringing with it the legacy of Tuskegee Airmen to Alaska.

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