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February 5, 2013
Maj Mark Goehring | Assistant Professor UMD Aerospace Studies| 218 726-8223 | mgoehrin@d.umn.edu
Kathleen McQuillan-Hofmann | UMD Communication Associate Department of External Affairs | 218 726-7111 | kmcquill@d.umn.edu


Tuskegee Airmen and Civil Rights Marcher To Speak at UMD

DULUTH, MN — As part of its celebration of Black History Month, the University of Minnesota Duluth will present "Profiles in Courage" on Fri., Feb. 15 from 2:30-4 pm in Weber Music Hall. Speaking at that event will be Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. (Ret.) Hiram Mann, who will talk about his experiences in the Air Force, and COL (Ret.) Nathan Thomas, Jr., who will speak about participating in the 1963 Birmingham Civil Rights March. Joining them will be Major (Ret.) Joseph Gomer, a Tuskegee airman from the Duluth area.

The lecture is free and open to the public. It is presented by: UMD, Air Force ROTC Det 420, the Office of Cultural Diversity, and the Metropolitan State University Veterans Network.

About Lt. Col. (Ret.) Hiram Mann
Mann entered the Army Air Corps as a pre-aviation student in 1942. He became an aviation cadet and completed his single-engine combat pilot training at Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF), in Alabama, in June 1944. Initially assigned to the 302nd Fighter Squadron, Mann was reassigned to the 100th Fighter Squadron, of the 332nd Fighter Group in Italy. He flew combat missions with both squadrons. He returned to TAAF in January 1946 and served at various Air Force installations. Mann's last assignment was as an admissions counselor for the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Post military, he worked and retired from Federal Civil Service as a supervisor program analyst.

Mann earned a B.A. degree with a double major in Sociology and Psychology from Fenn Collage in 1953, a M.A. degree in Education from John Carroll University in 1961, and an Ed.D. degree, as a guidance counselor, from John Carroll University in 1966, which felicitated his appointment as an admissions counselor to the US Air Force Academy. He received an honorary Ph.D. from Tuskegee University, Alabama, in February 2006. Born in New York City, raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Mann lives in Florida.

About COL (Ret.) Nathan Thomas, Jr.
His military career of over 39 years began as an airman in the United States Air Force. Thomas served in Vietnam, Operation Just Cause (invasion of Panama) and Operation Desert Storm. Active in the Civil Rights Movement, he took part in numerous marches including the march in Selma, Alabama, in March 1965. There, police on horseback beat participants as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge. Public outcry over that incident spurred federal legislation. Within a week, President Johnson introduced a comprehensive voting's rights bill to Congress that led to the Voting's Rights Act of 1965, effectively opening up the polls to African Americans throughout the South for the first time since the end of Reconstruction.

Thomas received a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Miles College in 1973, Associate in Criminal Justice in 1975, Masters of Political Science in 1977, Masters of Science in History in 1983, and a Masters of Science in Human Resources Management in 1998. He lectures on racism, Buffalo Soldiers, and the Tuskegee Airmen. Thomas is president of Welcome Home Vets, a non-profit organization dedicated to returning Florida veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations around the world.

About Major (Ret.) Joseph Gomer
Gomer enlisted in the Army in 1942 at the age of 22. He was sent to TAAF and went through pre-flight, basic, and advanced training. He was assigned to the all-black 99th Fighter Squadron. His unit flew missions out of Salerno, Italy, providing convoy escort for thousand of allied ships. Later, Gomer was reassigned to bomber escort and according to the African American education website aaregistry.org, "Their record was perfect, having never lost a bomber to enemy fighters. [Gomer's] unit flew 1,500 sorties and downed 111 enemy aircraft including the sinking of one German navy destroyer while losing 78 pilots of their own through accidents, training, and combat."

Following WWII, Gomer became a flight test maintenance officer with the 332nd at Lockbourne Air Force Base in Ohio. During the Korean War, he served with the 315th Air Division in Japan as a wing technical inspector. After that war, in 1955, he was assigned to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Subsequent Air Force assignments trained him in air defense and nuclear weapons, the latter taking him to the French River, just north of Duluth, Minn., where he became a nuclear weapons technician.

After 22 years in the Air Force, Gomer accepted a position with the United States Forestry Service as the local personnel officer. Upon retirement in 1985, the Secretary of Agriculture, in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., presented him with a Superior Services Award for his work with minorities and women. In 2004, Gomer was presented with a Doctorate of Humanities from the Board of Trustees of Ellsworth College. Born in Iowa City, Iowa, he lives in Duluth. A life-sized bronze statue of Gomer was unveiled at the Duluth International Airport in 2012.

About the Tuskegee Airmen
From 1941 through 1946, 996 pilots graduated from TAAF, receiving commissions and pilot wings. The Tuskegee Airmen became America's first black military airmen. In 2007, the 332nd Fighter Group and 477th Bomber Group were presented with the highest award given by the House of Congress, The Congressional Gold Medal.



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