Lowell Steward, a former Tuskegee Airman who flew nearly 200 missions in Europe during World War II, died Wednesday at a hospital in Ventura, Calif., The Guardian reports. He died of natural causes, said his son Lowell Steward Jr.
Steward joined the Army Air Corps and trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama after graduating with a business degree from Santa Barbara College in 1941, the report notes.
In 1944 he was assigned to Italy with the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 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,” the report states.
The first black U.S. military pilots held themselves to a high standard amid intense racial scrutiny, Steward often said, The Guardian notes.
“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, according to the newspaper. He was ultimately awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the report says.
After his discharge in 1946, he moved to Los Angeles and tried to buy a home, only to be rejected repeatedly because he was black, the report says.
“After several encounters like that, he said, ‘I need to figure out how to finance my own home.’ That’s when he went to real estate school,” Lowell Jr. said, according to The Guardian.
Steward went on to become one of the first black real estate agents in Los Angeles and worked for 40 years in the industry, the report says.
Read more at The Guardian.