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His message, though light hearted and funny, spawned from living in an era punctuated by war, conflict and racial inequality.
“The career path then was not to fight discrimination, but find a way to succeed despite it,” said Dr. Luzine B. Bickham.
Brought to the University by Alpha Kappa Alpha, Dr. Bickham, a Tuskegee airman, induced laughter and smiles from the crowd gathered in Dillon I on April 11, where he recounted stories from his adventurous past. A member of the famed African-American pilot group, he piloted several aircraft for the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.
The eldest of four siblings, Bickham learned at an early age that he had to set an example for his brothers and sister. As a teenager, his family moved from New Orleans to Tuskegee, Ala., the place that would become the namesake of him and his fellow airmen. Bickham spent a short time there before returning to New Orleans by himself to graduate from high school at 16.
After two years at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., he moved to Vancouver, Wash., and was drafted in 1943. In the service he flew PT-17s and AT-6s, an opportunity few African-Americans received in the 1940s.
Despite his accomplishments and service to his country, he recalled how he was treated with disrespect.
One day, while out with his girlfriend, Bickham remembered going to a public pool only to be denied entrance because he was a different race. Even his status as a World War II veteran did not exempt him from racial inequality of the day.
AKA, a historically African-American sorority, hosted the event last week. As an important contributor to history and a member of their brother fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, Bickham was very significant to AKA, said Junior Jeanele Davis, secretary of AKA.
“The event turned out great,” said sophomore Taylor Blackman, an AKA member and co-chair of the event. “There was a great range of people from the campus community. Both students and the chapter enjoyed it.”