Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, passed away in his sleep on the morning of Jan. 16. He was 102 years old.
McGee's family said in a statement, "McGee was a living legend known for his kind-hearted, and humble nature, who saw positivity at every turn. He spent the last half-century inspiring future generations to pursue careers in aviation, but equally important, he encouraged others to be the best they could be, to follow their dreams, and to persevere through all challenges."
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin wrote in a tweet, "Today, we lost an American hero. Charles McGee, Brigadier General and one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airman passed at the age of 102. While I am saddened by his loss, I'm also incredibly grateful for his sacrifice, his legacy, and his character. Rest in peace, General."
The veteran completed over 400 air combat missions.
The Tuskegee Airmen blazed their way into history as the first African-American pilots fighting World War II in the 1940s.
Officially known as the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Corps, the group was subjected to segregation and discrimination during their time in the army.
The African-American pilots who served in the squadrons were trained at Tuskegee Institute. The group earned the nickname "Red Tail Angels" because the bombers they escorted saw them as angels, and their planes' tails and propellers were painted red.
By the end of WWII, 992 men had graduated from Tuskegee. They carried out more than 200 bomber escort missions, damaged 409 German planes, 950 ground units, and sank a battleship.
According to CNN, Charles McGee is survived by three children, 10 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.