Chief Master Sergeant (Ret.) Walter Richardson said he never forgot the tension in the Tuskegee Airmen’s aircraft hangar the day retired Lt. General Benjamin Davis read Executive Order 9981 at Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio, in 1949. Those 1,500 deemed worthy to remain in the service would continue to their next assignment as the first African Americans in white units. For that, Chief Richardson calls himself a “second generation” Tuskegee Airman. Ask Chief Richardson how he rose to the top enlisted rank and was recognized as the 1972 Air Force’s Outstanding Airman of the Year, and he’ll credit Helen, his wife of 58 years.
He retired at Hurlburt Field, and the Airmen there know the chief well. He often ministers at the chapel, hosts book signings and accepts volunteer speaking opportunities. As an official member of the Tuskegee Airmen, in 2009, he was a special guest at President Obama’s inauguration. Looking back today, Chief Richardson said he did what he had to do – whether it was to fix an aircraft or figure out which water fountain he was allowed to use. Discipline and love were key traits he’s held onto since childhood, thanks to his mother and a faith that can withstand any storm.