Lieutenant Calvin Spann was an original member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen and military pilot who fought in missions during World War II. Lt. Spann died last week at the age of 90, and has been honored in both his adopted home of Texas and his home state of New Jersey.
Spann flew 26 missions as a member of the Airmen and also made history by flying the longest mission in the Air Force’s 15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force Division. Spann flew a 1,600-mile mission between Italy and Germany.
Despite this achievement, after his military service, Spann found it difficult to obtain work as a pilot. The racial climate of America at the time was not friendly despite Spann’s worthy credentials and service to the country. Spann eventually settled in New Jersey, raising three children and excelling in pharmaceutical sales. He also owned a restaurant and bar along with a real estate business.
Although Spann didn’t share much of his exploits with his family and rarely boasted of his achievements, he did speak at various Tuskegee Airmen conventions and other events for organizations in the town of McKinney. When Spann moved to Allen, Texas to be closer to his grandchildren in 2007, he became a fixture in the community. Spann preached the value of education in his speaking engagements, inspiring young people to dream beyond their limits
In 2006, Spann and several of his Tuskegee Airmen comrades were honored by President George W. Bush with the Congressional Medal of Honor, which is the nation’s highest civilian honor.