The city of Petersburg unanimously approved a site for a Tuskegee Airman statue, a decision that could help reclaim grounds scared by the Civil War.
The bronze statue will honor Lt. Col. Howard Baugh, a Petersburg native, and one of the original Tuskegee Airmen. The memorial site will be at Poplar Lawn Park, where Petersburg prepared for war 150 years ago.
Volunteers gathered at the park to enlist in the Confederate army, and a temporary hospital treated the wounded from the Siege of Petersburg. Supporters of the statue hope the bronze sculpture will signal a new chapter for the historic grounds and the city.
Lt. Col. Howard Baugh was 21 when he began training with the Tuskegee Airmen, the country's first African-American military aviators. Pilots were trained to fly 50 combat missions, but Baugh took flight over Northern Africa and Italy 150 times because of a pilot shortage.
Now 70 years after he flew in World War II, the city of Petersburg and friends of Lt. Col. Baugh are trying to build a statue in his honor.
"He was raised in a segregated city... We're going pull off an honor for my father," said David Baugh in an interview Monday. "He was a man of duty who put all his kids through college, and this statue will remind people of the sacrifices of his generation."
Baugh fought to free Europe, but also fought to free African Americans from segregation. He returned to Petersburg where he attended Virginia State University and raised his family.
The aviator passed away in 2008, and Petersburg's Tuskegee Airmen Chapter now await final approval for a site where a bronze statue will stand in Baugh's honor.
The statue will be slightly larger than life size, depicting Baugh wearing pilot goggles and Airmen gear. About $40,000 is currently needed to cast the bronze statue and build the base.
"It's also a statue to the Greatest Generation. David Baugh said. "And one of the wonderful things about that generation is [their spirit] is in us... There are people in high school right now who possess the inner strength to make a difference like that. And we need to remind people that you can do this."
Members of the Petersburg Tuskegee Airmen Chapter say the cost is worth it, and that Baugh has earned a place in Petersburg's history. The group hopes the community will reach out to help during the holiday season, and a statue will be in place by next Christmas.
Executive Secretary Col. James R. Clark,
Jr. Howard Baugh Chapter, Tuskegee Airmen
20213 Sheffield Place
Ettrick, Virginia 23803
Col. Clark can be reached at (804) 526-5805.
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