VENTURA, Calif. (AP) — Lowell Steward, a former member of the Tuskegee Airmen who flew nearly 200 missions over Europe during World War II, has died in California. He was 95.
His son Lowell Jr. says Steward died Wednesday of natural causes at a hospital in Ventura.
After graduating with a business degree from Santa Barbara College in 1941, Steward joined the Army Air Corps and trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama.
He was shipped to Italy in 1944 with the 100th Fighter Squadron of the famed all-black unit. From Capodechino Air Base in Naples, Steward completed 96 missions, flying P-39 Airacobras and P-40 Warhawks. Later based in Ramitelli, Italy, he flew 96 escort and strafing missions in P-51 Mustangs.
America’s first black military pilots faced an unprecedented level of scrutiny under racial segregation.
As a result they held themselves to a higher standard, Steward often said.
“He would say, ‘we had to be better because we were looked at harder. The odds were stacked against us. Some people wanted us to fail,’” Lowell Jr. said.
Steward was ultimately awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
After being discharged in 1946, he moved to Los Angeles and tried to buy a house, only to be repeatedly denied bank loans because he was black.