Robert T. McDaniel, a member of the legendary elite black pilot's group, the Tuskegee Airmen, has died. McDaniel died March 19 at the age of 96.
McDaniel, a resident of Fort Worth, was also a product of the Fort Worth Independent School District, graduating at the top of his class from I.M. Terrell High School in 1940.
McDaniel was drafted and sent to Tuskegee, Alabama for pilot training, just three years after graduating high school as valedictorian and class president.
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More than 900 black pilots trained in Tuskegee during the war.
"They were able to overcome insurmountable odds. There were those who said they couldn't fly or that they didn't have the intellectual capacity to fly and they proved so many people wrong," former student Kyev Tatum said, who added the airmen "performed at a higher level than most other pilots."
After the war, McDaniel became a teacher and principal for Fort Worth ISD. The district inducted him to its Wall of Fame in 2009.
"He didn't feel like it was about him. We asked him several times if we could do things in his honor, but he never did," Tatum said. "But, my whole belief is — you must tell the stories to the next generation so they can recognize that same thing that got you over is the same thing that can get them over."
The Tuskegee Airmen received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. McDaniel was even invited by then President Barack Obama to his 2009 inauguration.
The 2012 George Lucas movie "Red Tails" told the story of the groundbreaking group that did so much for their country at a time when the military was segregated.
A wake for McDaniel was held at Saint Peter Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. Funeral services will be Thursday at 11 a.m. at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
Editor's Note: The Fort Worth ISD originally said McDaniel was the last surviving member of the Tuskegee Airmen living in Fort Worth; NBC 5 has since learned of another and has updated this report. We regret the error.