American Hero: Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, Jr. RIP

Dr. Roscoe C. Brown — former president of the Bronx Community College, director of the Institute of Afro-American Affairs at New York University, professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, and Tuskegee Airman during World War II — passed away at the age of 94 on June 2, 2016 at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx.

Brown, who was a celebrated combat aviator, marathoner and educator, died at the Bronx hospital after breaking his hip in a recent fall, said his granddaughter Lisa Bodine.

Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered all city flags flown at half-staff from Monday through Saturday, July 9th.

Media reports say that the Brown family wishes to hold on a private funeral service but plans are in the works for a larger public memorial service for September 2016.

Roscoe Brown_Serrano-TwitterAs Dr. Brown’s many friends and admirers learned of his death over the holiday weekend, messages of condolences appeared on Twitter and Facebook.

A number of Bronx elected officials posted Facebook and Twitter tributes.

Rep. Jose Serrano who knew Dr. Brown for over 30 years called him a “great American” and a “good friend.” In a statement Serrano recalled that “Dr. Brown was also an avid runner, and on dozens of occasions we ran together the Bronx Community College 5 & 10K – a race that he founded during his tenure at BCC.”

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. tweeted his sadness at learning of Brown’s passing. Diaz called him “a true Bronx legend [who] will certainly be missed.”

CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken praised Dr. Brown’s tenure as president of BCC by saying, “During his 17 years of exemplary service as president, Dr. Brown intensified [Bronx Community] College’s outreach to New York City’s economic and educational institutions through partnerships with business and industry.”

 

Roscoe Brown_Ruben Diaz Jr-Twitter

The Bronxnet Board of Directors, where Dr. Brown served as a member for over 25 years, recalled him as a guiding force.  “Dr. Roscoe C. Brown is a role model, mentor, and inspiration to many and we will all miss him dearly,” said Executive Director Michael Max Knobbe.

Bronx State Senator Gustavo Rivera released a statement saying, “Dr. Brown’s groundbreaking work made him a unique role model who dared to break rules in the name of justice, equality and community.”

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said in a statement, “Dr. Brown was the longest-serving member of NYSED’s Technical Advisory Committee, joining when it was founded in 1992-93 and serving until this year.  He was that rare combination of compassion, intellect and commitment, as shown throughout his lifetime of dedication to others.”

Roscoe C Brown_P51 Red TailAs a fighter pilot with the famed all-black Tuskegee Airmen in the then-segregated U.S. Air Corps, Captain Brown flew missions against the Nazi war machine.

Brown flew 68 combat missions, earned a Distinguished Flying Cross and is credited with being the first 15th Air Force fighter pilot to shoot down a German jet fighter in WWII.

Many obituaries emphasize Dr. Brown’s service as a Tuskegee Airman—while a defining time in his life, it only marked the beginning a lifetime of service to his nation, state and city.

Like many of his fellow pioneering black aviators, Brown pushed back against the racial barriers that impeded full citizenship rights in the Army and in American society.

Throughout his time with the fabled Tuskegee Airmen, Roscoe Brown knew he had to be excellent and better than everyone else.

In 2012, surviving black aviators were hosted by the White House for a screening of a film honoring their heroics.

“We knew we had to be better, we knew we had to be excellent,” said Brown, 89, one of about 10 Tuskegee Airmen who attended the White House screening of “Red Tails,” a film about the airmen produced by “Star Wars” creator George Lucas which opened in theaters in March 2012.

The heroic service of the Tuskegee Airmen and other all-black military units led to the integration of the US Armed Forces. Later, they gave energy to the activism of the civil rights era.

In 2007, on behalf of the Tuskegee Airmen, Dr. Brown and five other surviving airmen accepted the Congressional Gold Medal.

Brown earned a doctorate in education from New York University, served as president of Bronx Community College and later directed the CUNY Center for Urban Education Policy. He also hosted “African American Legends,” a public affairs show on CUNY TV.

The student center on the Bronx Community College campus is named in his honor.

Dr. Brown was a nine-time New York City Marathon runner and lifelong Jets and Mets fan.

Other Twitter tributes to Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, Jr.

Roscoe Brown_100 Black Men-Twitter Roscoe Brown_Bill de Blasio-Twitter Roscoe Brown_Daren Jaime-Twitter Roscoe Brown_Dean Meminger-Twitter Roscoe Brown_Twitter

 

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