By Bettye Miller
Ruth M. Jackson, University of California, Riverside emeritus university librarian, has been honored with a 2014 Presidential Recognition Award from the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. The award recognizes Jackson’s groundbreaking work at UCR to preserve the history and legacy of the famed Tuskegee Airmen through the establishment and maintenance of the Tuskegee Airmen Archive.
Jackson established the Tuskegee Airmen Archive at UCR in 2005 as part of a national effort to collect, preserve, and make available the history and legacy of the Airmen; and in recognition of the Tuskegee Experiment as a major component of and precursor to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African Americans to be fighter pilots, bomber pilots, ground crew, navigators, and nurses in U.S. military history. Their heroic efforts and accomplishments were recognized nationally in 2007 by the award of the Congressional Gold Medal. They broke racial barriers in aviation, military, and many areas of social history in the U.S., many going on after World War II to become the nation’s firsts in such fields as science, architecture, education and law, including the first African American corporate CEOs among the Fortune 500.
The term “Tuskegee Airmen” refers to the men and women, military and civilian, African Americans and Caucasians, who were involved in the so-called “Tuskegee Experience,” the Army Air Corps program to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft.
Tuskegee Airmen Inc. (TAI) announced three recipients of the Presidential Recognition Awards at the organization’s convention this year, said Brig. Gen. Leon Johnson, TAI president.
“Dr. Jackson was selected for recognition because of her efforts to establish and maintain the Tuskegee Airmen Archives at the UC Riverside Library,” he said. “As we approach the day when there are no longer living Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen, it is vital to retain and preserve as many of the things that represent their accomplishments to pass to future generations.”
As a result of her collaborative work with the Airmen, the archive’s co-founder, Col. Ralph W. Smith, and the leadership of the national organization, the archive is the largest collection about the Airmen in a public research university. From 2006-2014, an annual educational forum was held by the Archive attracting from 350-425 individuals from California and across the nation as a component of UCR’s observance of Black History month and in recognition of the university’s public commitment to diversity.
TAI also appointed Jackson the organization’s national historian, which carries with it membership on the organization’s Harry A. Sheppard Research/History Committee. The open-ended appointment makes Jackson a non-voting member of the TAI national board of directors. She will be voting member of the Western Region TAI board.
UCR’s Tuskegee Airmen Archive houses personal papers, selected military papers, diaries, photographs, posters, oral histories, books, media, and memorabilia that document the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen and women in relation to their impact on American, multicultural, military, aviation, and civil rights history; and their many contributions to the fabric of American life.
Tuskegee Airmen Inc. is a nonprofit dedicated to keeping alive the history, achievements and importance of the men and women who participated in the Tuskegee Experience. It works to motivate and inspire young Americans to become participants in our nation and its democratic process, and supports young men and women interested in careers in aviation, science and technology (STEM fields), and aerospace, according to the TAI website.