RICHMOND — A packed house at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center on Saturday saw Petersburg native Lt. Col. Howard Baugh honored for the second time this year, as a special statue of the Tuskegee Airman was unveiled at the museum.

Baugh was one of the original members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American squadron of fighter pilots who gained fame for their bravery and aviation prowess in WWII.

Dr. Monroe E. Harris, the board chair of the Black History Museum, described Baugh as "a beacon of light, in a time of darkness for people of color."

"If you think about the times in which they served, they loved a country that didn't really love them," he said.

A special ceremony on Saturday saw Howard Baugh's sons, Richard Baugh and Howard Layne Baugh, credit all the work that made the statue a reality.

The statue was made by sculptor Antonio Tobias Mendez, who also created the statue of Maggie Walker that also resides in Richmond.

“The statue is really to honor all the Tuskegee Airman; all the men and woman who shared the Tuskegee experience,” said Howard Layne Baugh. “The statue of course needs a face, and we thought it should be Petersburg’s own Howard L. Baugh.”

Numerous city officials from Petersburg and Richmond were in attendance to see the statue get revealed for the first time. Fourth District Congressman Donald McEachin was also in attendance.

Other famous local military veterans were also at the ceremony, like Porcher L. Taylor, who is also a member of the Howard Baugh Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Baugh was born and raised in Petersburg, and attended Virginia State University, graduating in 1941. After graduation, he went into the Tuskegee Airman Pilot training program, which consisted of the first African American pilots in U.S military history. The Tuskegee Airmen were a part of the Allied aerial attack that helped secure victory over Germany. The success of the Tuskegee Airmen led to to President Truman signing executive order 9981, which desegregated the military in 1948.

The Tuskegee Airmen are often credited for achieving a “double victory”, defeating fascism in Europe, which then helped jump-start the Civil Rights movement to defeat racism at home.

Deployed to Sicily in WWII as a member of the 99th Fighter Squadron, Howard Baugh flew 135 combat missions, and is credited with 1.5 aerial victories. He passed away in 2008, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The statue unveiling marks the second time this year that the legacy of Howard Baugh has been honored. In the spring, a special highway maker dedicated to him was unveiled in downtown Petersburg.

John Adam may be reached at jadam@progress-index.com or 804-722-5172.