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Tuskegee airmen honored guests at inaugural

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 21, 2013 at 1:27 pm •  Published: January 21, 2013

Clayton Lawrence, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, was among some 100 black troops disciplined in Indiana in 1945, during a protest when black officers attempted to enter an all-white officers' club. A trainer of B-25 bomber pilots, the 89-year-old former New York City employee received a written reprimand and three officers faced courts-martial.

Transposing that day with the inauguration of the nation's first African-American president, Lawrence said, "I never thought I would live to see it."

Ezra Hill, 82, of Hampton, Va., who was an engineer with the unit, said the Tuskegee Airmen "never gave up" the hope that the military would be integrated. So many times, while he was in uniform, Hill said he was told, "We don't have colored boys here."

Grant Williams, also of Hampton, who had an administrative job with the unit from 1941-45, said the airmen suffered more discrimination in the United States then when they were deployed during World War II.

"We got much better treatment overseas than at home," the 92-year-old said.