Robert Arthur Cole
March 2, 1920 – August 19, 1968
Class: 44-J-SE Flt. Officer
Graduation date: 12/28/1944
Rank at time of graduation: Flt. Officer
Service # T67967
From: Northfield VT

Robert Arthur Cole was the only Tuskegee Airman from Vermont. He was born in Northfield, Vermont on March 8, 1920, to Alonzo and Martha Cole. According to the Vermont Historical Society, U.S. Census data from 1930 shows that Cole had two sisters and two brothers. He graduated from Northfield High School in 1938 where, according to his yearbook, he belonged to the drama club, played basketball, sang in the chorus and played guitar in a dance band called the Blue Jackets.

After graduation, Cole enlisted in the U.S. military and was one of the 992 cadets who trained in Tuskegee, Ala., from 1941 to 1946. In those years, the U.S. military was still racially segregated and much of the South was under Jim Crow laws. Cole was not one of the 355 Tuskegee aviators who were eventually deployed — he graduated from the cadet program in December 1944, too late to be sent overseas. Cole spent much of his time in the service flying air shows stateside.

After the war, Cole returned to Vermont and purchased the Northfield shoe repair shop he’d worked in before the war. On July 29, 1949, he married Irene (aka Irena) Elizabeth Pombar of Berlin. According to VHS records, it was a second marriage for both bride and groom and Pombar was a white woman. This was during a time when interracial marriages were still illegal in most USA states. However, Vermont is one of only 9 states in the USA that did not at some point consider interracial marriage illegal.



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