Today in History: In 1903 Cornelius Coffey Was Born in Newport, Arkansas Just Months Before The Wright Brothers’ Initial Flight

Cornelius Coffey

He was an African American aviator and engineer who became “hooked” on aviation after he took his first airplane ride when he was 13.

Cornelius Coffey was the first black person to hold both a pilot’s and mechanic’s license in America.

He obtained his commercial license on August 15,1938 (#36609) and Coffey established the Coffey School of Aeronautics at Harlem Airport, located south of Chicago at 87th Street and Harlem Avenue.

From 1938 to 1945 more than 1,500 black students went through the school, including many who would later become Tuskegee Airmen.

After World War II, Coffey served as an instructor at the Lewis School of Aeronautics in Lockport, and then at Dunbar Vocational High School in Chicago, training some of the first blacks to be hired as mechanics by commercial airlines.


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