This Day in Black History: Jan. 21, 1906

This Day in Black History: Jan. 21, 1906

Willa Brown, renowned African-American aviator and educator, was born on Jan. 21, 1906.

Published January 21, 2013

Willa Brown, born on Jan. 21, 1906, was one of the pioneer figures in the world of African-American aviators. She was the first Black female officer in the Civil Air Patrol and the first Black woman to hold a commercial pilot's license in the United States.

Brown was the coordinator of war-training service for the Civil Aeronautics Authority and later was a member of the Federal Aviation Administration's Women's Advisory Board.

A native of Glasgow, Kentucky, Brown earned a degree from Indiana State Teachers College and a master’s degree from the Aeronautical University in Chicago. She later earned a master's in business administration from Northwestern University. She and her husband, Cornelius Coffey, formed the Coffey School of Aeronautics to train African-American pilots. Brown retired in 1971 as a schoolteacher. She died of a stroke in 1992.

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(Photo: Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution)

Written by Jonathan P. Hicks

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