A Queens Tuskegee Airmen, who fought in World War II and was an active civil rights proponent, died on Sept. 8.
Retired U.S Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Clayton Lawrence was one of 161 officers who had been asked to protest against an officers’ club at Freeman Air Field in Indiana for segregating black officers in 1945, according to several published reports.
“What they were doing at Freeman Field was definitely illegal,” Lawrence told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in 2012. “And we planned to challenge it.”
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in the United States armed forces. These men were still subjected to racism and discrimination after having served in the war.
In 1983, Lawrence retired from being a New York City Tax Assessor and became more active in keeping the history of the Tuskegee Airmen alive.
Lawrence’s daughter Christina said that her father was always able to see the “potential and power in young people.”
Lawrence was well-known in the Queens community. He worked with York College in efforts to create a Tuskegee Airmen’s museum. There are plans for the museum to be placed on York’s campus.
Guerschom Dieurine, a Theater Arts major, had a chance to meet one of the Tuskegee airmen last year and said, “it was a great honor.”
Dieurine said, he’s “very saddened to hear about his passing,” adding that he loves the idea of a museum on campus. “These are the kinds of historical monuments the upcoming generation needs,” Dieurine said.
Lawrence died at Jamaica Hospital in Queens from a heart attack at the age of 91.
Lawrence’s viewing was held on Sept. 18 at the United Methodist Church located in Springfield Gardens. He had a “military ceremony”, his daughter Virginia Hardy said, according to the Times Ledger.
Lawrence and his late wife, Mathilda, who died in 1979, raised their four children in Springfield Gardens, Queens.
Lawrence was laid to rest at Calverton National Cemetery in Riverhead, Long Island.