The oldest surviving member of the historic Tuskegee Airmen, Willie N. Rogers, died Friday in his hometown of St. Petersburg, Fla., at the age of 101, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
According to the report, Rogers died of complications from a stroke.
Rogers was a member of the renowned all-black Tuskegee Airmen, with whom he served as master sergeant, during a time when the U.S. military was still segregated.
Despite his heroism and his dedication to his country, Rogers was adamantly humble. According to the Times, his children were not even aware that their father was a part of the historic group until 2012.
“He didn’t like a lot of fuss,” Rogers’ nephew, Clinton Glover, said. “He was humble. That’s who he was.”
In 2007, President George W. Bush saluted the 300 surviving Tuskegee Airmen at the White House and apologized for the indignities they suffered while serving their country. They were all awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
However, Rogers did not attend the event.
Rogers told his family that part of the reason he was silent about his part in history was that he worked on the ground in logistics and administration, according to the report.
“He would always say there were many who deserved attention more but were not here to receive it,” his daughter, Veronica Williams, told the news site.
But Rogers was involved in military action, getting shot in the stomach and leg by German soldiers during a mission in Italy in January 1943, the Times notes. He spent three months in a London hospital before going back to war.
“He could give dates, names, locations of events from the war,” Williams said. “But he didn’t like to give specifics about what occurred to him. He saw things that were bad. And he experienced treatment because he was African American that wasn’t fair.”
After the war, Rogers moved to St. Petersburg and set up Rogers Radio Sales and Services, where he sold and repaired radios and other small appliances.
Rogers celebrated his 101st birthday at the beginning of this year, remarking with surprise on his own longevity.
“This is a very, very, very happy thing,” Rogers told The Ledger at the time. “I thank my heavenly father for allowing me to see 101, because at 27 I never thought I would see 28.”