Frank Macon, one of only two remaining documented original Tuskegee Airmen in Colorado, died Sunday night at his home in Colorado Springs. He was 97.
The announcement was made Monday in a statement from retired Air Force Col. Mark Dickerson, president of the Hubert L. “Hooks” Jones Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc.
“The City of Colorado Springs has lost a local icon, and the nation another hero,” the statement read. “The Tuskegee Airmen … are a national treasure. Of the over 14,000 who were part of the Tuskegee experience, less than 50 are believed to remain with us. Their determination to perform with distinction despite challenges both at home and abroad made them true national heroes.”
Macon “was proud to be counted among them,” the release noted.
Dickerson first met Macon in the mid-90s, when both men were members of the High Flights Soaring Club at Meadow Lake Airport in Peyton — the state’s largest pilot-owned airport, which Macon helped establish in 1967. Both men were also members of the local Tuskegee Airmen chapter.
“He was truly one of a great generation,” Dickerson said by phone Monday. “So many people … have so much respect for him.”
From a young age, Macon knew he wanted to be a pilot and took every opportunity he could to learn about airplanes. As a freshman at what is now Palmer High School in Colorado Springs, Macon designed planes and put away the money he earned working parttime at a Spruce Street garage toward flying lessons at a local airfield.
He learned to fly at Pine Valley Airport, now the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Airfield.
He was a senior in high school when the U.S. entered World War II on Dec. 7, 1941, after Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor. He quickly signed up for the Civil Air Patrol, a civilian organization founded to help aid the war effort, where he learned about the nation’s first group of African American fighter pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen.
“I didn’t know anything about Tuskegee,” Macon told The Gazette last December. “There was ... a segregated service at that time. Some of the generals and people … were very much against having black pilots.”
Eventually, Macon made it to Alabama, enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943. He began his military flight training the next year as part of Tuskegee’s Class 45A, where he flew various aircraft. Despite having a severe head cold, Macon went up for a flight in a T-6 during training and ruptured both of his eardrums . Macon was forced to miss graduation and spent nearly a year recovering. By then, World War II had ended.
But he didn’t lose sight of his dreams. Macon earned his wings and returned to Colorado Springs, where he worked for 23 years at Fort Carson and retired as head of aircraft maintenance. While he raised a family, Macon also ran a machine shop fabricating electronics, researched aviation accidents professionally, and wrote, studied, invented and worked with kids.
“He had a heart for trade,” Dickerson said. “He did a lot with his hands, because he was good at it.”
In 2019, Macon established the Frank Macon Trades Scholarship Charitable Trust, which funds and provides scholarships to young people who want to learn a trade. Its first scholarship is to be awarded in May, Dickerson said.
In recent years, Macon also donated numerous items to local museums, including the 1944 Stinson Vultee V-77 “Gullwing” aircraft he spent three years rebuilding with friends in the early 1950s. The aircraft itself served during WWII with the Royal Canadian Air Force and is now on display at the National Museum of World War II Aviation in Colorado Springs.
“He shared himself and what he had with the people around him,” Dickerson said.
Having received special permission from the U.S. Air Force Academy to be buried there, Macon will be interred at the academy in a private service, Dickerson said.