Tuskegee Airman Nurse Ruth Speight

You will also find 2LT Ruth Speight in the 1942 yearbook. She was a surgical nurse at Tuskegee Army Air Field. The base newspaper‘s June 10, 1944 edition reports she had been promoted to first lieutenant. Based on the July 15, 1946 roster, she had separated from service. (Hawk’s Cry, station hospital roster) A relative of Ruth Speight Russell informed me that the Tuskegee Airmen nurse died on Wednesday, December 14, 2016. Her funeral was held at New Comer Funeral Home in New York on Tuesday, December 20, 2016. There was a memorial video and obituary about her life on the funeral home’s website. Based on the obituary, Ruth S Russell was 98-years-old at the time of her death. She was born on June 14, 1918 in Wilson, North Carolina, the daughter of the late Lucious and Martha Speight. After high school, she graduated in 1941 from a three-year nursing school located in Raleigh, North Carolina. She then worked at a segregated African-American hospital in Florida. Later, this nurse joined four other black nurses as a 2nd LT in the Army Nurse Corps. She and the others were assigned to the station hospital at Tuskegee Army Air Field, Alabama, the advanced training ground for the original Tuskegee Airmen. She later continued her education studying for the Bachelor of Science degree in nursing at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. She completed her degree at the University of Buffalo in New York in 1951. We understand that she did not realize she had made history as a Tuskegee Airmen nurse until she saw a picture of herself and four other nurses from Tuskegee Alabama Air Force Hospital in one of her class textbooks. They were cited as the nurses who cared for the original Tuskegee Airman. While at Tuskegee, she met her future husband, Trent Russell, Sr. He was a biologist working in the base laboratory. They were married in 1948. They had a son Trent (Vern) Russell, Jr. She taught at Memorial Hospital School of Nursing from 1970 until her retirement in 1985. Not only was Nurse Russell a nurse educator, she volunteered at a senior center at Grace Methodist Church in Nassau, New York and the STAR Program in the East Greenbush School District where she mentored students in their studies. She was also the former president of the Albany District Links.

 

Thank you to Pia Winters Jordan, Project Director of the Tuskegee Airmen Nurses Project, for sharing with us the incredible legacy of nurses who served alongside the Airmen. We are honored to feature their history and stories. 

Be sure to visit Tuskegee Airmen Nurses Project for more information!

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