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Two-Day Viewing, Funeral Service Held In Detroit For Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson

(CBS DETROIT) - The two-day viewing for Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson began Thursday, July 7, at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Public visitation will continue on Friday, and a funeral service will be held on Saturday.

On Friday, July 8, public visitation will continue from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at James H. Cole Home for Funerals located at 16100 Schaefer in Detroit.

A funeral service will be held Saturday at Hope United Methodist Church, 26275 Northwestern Highway in Southfield.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the nation's first African American military pilots, and Jefferson was among the first to escort bombers in WWII.

From 1944 to 1945, he flew 18 missions as a P-51 fighter pilot with the 332nd Fighter Group-301st Fighter Squadron during WWII before being shot down and held as a prisoner of war in Poland for eight months.

In 1947 he was honorably discharged from active duty and in 1969 he retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

"Col. Jefferson not only represented the best of Detroit and our nation, he represented the very best of humanity," Mayor Mike Duggan. Said in a statement. "As a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, he helped to win the war, and despite spending eight months as a prisoner of war, he was an educator and made a lasting impact on countless young lives. He is profoundly deserving of the recognition he will receive when the plaza named in his honor opens next year. Our city and our world are better places because of Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson."

In addition to this, Jefferson was a lifelong Detroiter and impacted the community in several ways, including spending time as a Detroit Public School science teacher and being one of the founders of the Detroit Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Jefferson turned 100 years-old in November, and on his birthday Detroit officials awarded him a key to the city, shared plans to construct Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson Plaza.

Officials also rededicated Jefferson Field in Rouge Park to Jefferson, as it is where he played as a child and flew model airplanes.

Jefferson was the last surviving member of the founding group that established the Detroit chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen.

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