Black History Month: Hero pilot Jesse Leroy Brown

The time is here in which we celebrate Black History Month.

Since February 1976, every U.S president has set aside 28 days to honor African Americans who have made a difference. Names such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and Frederick Douglass are the more known people we hear during this month. 

But other African Americans who have made a difference are often overlooked.

One of those people is Jesse Leroy Brown, the first African American pilot in the U.S. Navy. 

Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, into a low-income family, Brown had dreams of being a pilot at a young age. He did great academically in high school, graduating as salutatorian of his class.

Brown's hard work in his studies made him make his college decision to attend Ohio State University, a predominantly white college.

Leaving Mississippi headed to Ohio for college, his high school principal wrote a letter to him. According  to, the principal wrote, "As the first of our graduates to enter a predominantly white university, you are our hero." 

After graduating from college, Brown enlisted in the U.S Navy in 1946. Starting at the lowest rank in the Navy, a midshipman, Brown then went on to earn his pilot wings, which are aviation badges given out in the Navy. 

On Oct. 21, 1948, Brown made history as the first African American to complete the Navy flight-training program. 

In January 1949, Brown was assigned to Fighter Squadron 32, the aircraft carrier transferred to USS Leyte. In October 1950, his squadron assisted U.N. forces in Korea as part of the Fast Carrier Task Force. 

Tragedy struck in December of 1950 on the way to Chosin Reservoir when Brown’s Corsair struck the side of the mountain in the snow. The squadron commanders noticed that Brown did not come out of the cockpit of the wrecked aircraft. His body was found in pain and trapped in the plane with no way to rescue him, and he later died.

Brown's bravery for his country was remembered in several books, in addition to the Navy naming an aircraft plane to remember his honor, the USS Jesse L. Brown (FF-1089).

Jesse Leroy Brown