Roscoe C. Brown Jr., one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen who flew in World War II, died Saturday at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, N.Y. He was 94.
According to NBC 4 New York, Brown, who held a doctorate in education, became critically ill toward the end of 2015. In May he had a pacemaker installed.
"If he wasn’t as healthy and in such great shape, he probably wouldn’t have made it through this," Dr. Daniel Sims told NBC 4 New York following Brown's surgery.
"Most 94-year-olds are not this active, but Dr. Brown is just remarkable," he said.
As a fighter pilot, Brown flew 68 combat missions with the first African-American pilots in U.S. history. Brown would go on to get a Ph.D. in education and serve for 17 years as the president of Bronx Community College.
Brown also worked as a professor and director of the Center for Urban Education Policy at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He also hosted African American Legends, a public-affairs show on CUNY TV, NBC 4 New York reports. Brown also ran in the New York City Marathon nine times.
On March 15, 1945, Brown flew 1,500 miles from southern Italy to Berlin—the longest mission flown by the Air Force in World War II—to fight with a group of German jets. Brown, who was only 23 at the time, would take down a German plane. In 2009 he reflected on his time in battle.
"Young people don't totally understand," Brown told the news station during a 2011 interview. "I didn't understand the brutality of the Civil War, but when I was a Tuskegee Airman, I knew that I was good, I knew that I had to challenge the system, and I loved to fly."
"My message to young people is to keep on working," he continued. "You've got to be better, you've got to be disciplined; you've got to believe. And if you believe you can overcome, you can overcome. That's the story of the Tuskegee Airmen."
Read more at NBC 4 New York.