Late Tuskegee Airman honored in South LA

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Corey Moore/KPCC

The placard for the Roger "Bill" Terry Square dedication, Oct. 21, 2010.

Starting today a historic South Los Angeles neighborhood carries the name of a late Tuskegee Airman. The intersection of East 28th Street and South Stanford Avenue is now known as Roger “Bill” Terry Square. Terry’s comrades remembered him as a proud African-American World War II pilot who fought hard abroad and at home.

"We graduated together. We flew together. We worked in the office there together,” Tuskegee Airman Oliver “Ollie” Goodall, 88, recalled as he laughed. Goodall flew, fought and worked alongside his fellow U.S. Army veteran Roger “Bill” Terry.

Goodall and others proudly stood near St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church in South L.A., where Terry was a longtime member. They helped unveil a sign — erected on a street post — with Terry’s name on it. From now on, when people drive or walk through this neighborhood, they’ll refer to it as Terry Square.

L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry backed the motion that placed the memorial to a native Angeleno in the heart of this area.

“We are really blessed to have this history from the buildings of the great architect Paul Williams to the stories of these brave gentlemen next to me during World War II," Perry said. "And these are stories that we all are a part of because they are the stories of America.”

In 1945 Terry agitated to integrate an all-white officer’s club in Freeman Field, Indiana. In response, the Army court-martialed and convicted Terry for jostling an officer.

He never flew an overseas mission like his fellow Airmen. It took 50 years for him to win a pardon. Three years ago, President George Bush awarded Terry and other Tuskegee Airmen with a Congressional Gold Medal.

His war buddy Ollie Goodall said he appreciates Terry’s fighting spirit and friendship. After the dedication ceremony, he paused a moment to gaze toward the memorial sign.

“It means a lot," Goodall said. "I know Bill would be embarrassed because he didn’t like publicity. But we appreciate the city of Los Angeles for doing it.”

Roger “Bill” Terry — who also earned a law degree — was 87 years old when he died in June of last year.

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