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Willa Brown. Shown wearing a padded flight suit. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution (90-13119).


Brown, Willa (22 January 1906–18 July 1992), pilot and aviation educator, was born Willa Beatrice Brown in Glasgow, Kentucky, the only daughter of Hallie Mae Carpenter Brown and Eric B. Brown, a farm owner. After 1910 the family, as part of the internal migration of African Americans from the rural South to northern cities, moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, hoping for greater opportunities in employment and education. There her father worked in a creosote factory; he was also pastor of the Holy Triumphant Church in 1920 and the Free Church of God in 1929....


Wright, Theodore Paul (25 May 1895–21 August 1970), aviation administrator and educator, was born in Galesburg, Illinois, the son of Philip Green Wright, a college professor, and Elizabeth Quincy. Wright grew up in a financially secure family; his father taught mathematics at Galesburg’s Lombard College and imbued his sons with a sense of social duty. Wright’s two older brothers excelled in their professions, ...