In honor of Black History Month, we wanted to celebrate one of the amazing innovators in the field of aviation and maintenance.

Black male, Ensign Jesse Leroy Brown, posing with five other white male aviation cadets.
Image source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002716943/)

Written by Ashleen Brydum

Today, we feature Ensign Jesse Brown who broke through many barriers to become the first Black Naval Aviator and would undoubtedly be supported by our aviation maintenance technicians.

Born and raised in Mississippi to a sharecropper family, Brown would study by day and work through the night to fund his education. He worked the midnight shift at the Pennsylvania Railroad loading boxcars until he was ready to pursue his lifelong dream of flying.

Brown joined the Naval Reserve in part to help pay for college. He was discouraged from applying for the new naval aviation program and was told he would “never make it to the cockpit of a Navy aircraft.” However, Brown persisted and aced all of his tests and exams. Brown earned his wings at the age of 22 on October 21, 1948, a success that the Associated Press and Life Magazine covered.

Brown became a section leader and flew a Vought F4U-4 Corsair. After being assigned to assist United Nations forces in Korea, he was killed in combat on December 4, 1950. Unable to safely recover his body, Brown was honored with a warrior’s funeral on December 7, 1950 with seven aircraft piloted by his friends. After his death, Brown received the distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart. Additionally, the USS Jesse L. Brown (DE-1089) was launched in 1973 in his honor, with his wife and squadron mates in attendance.

Ensign Jesse Brown was a brilliant and passionate man who was unafraid to break boundaries and go after his goals. Today, he remains an inspiration for those who are told they cannot. His memory remains a reminder that with passion, persistence, and perseverance, you can achieve your dreams. We are proud to remember Ensign Jesse Brown as the first Black Naval Aviator.

About Aviation Institute of Maintenance

Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) is a network of aviation maintenance schools with campuses coast-to-coast in the United States and headquarters in Virginia Beach, Va. AIM students are trained to meet the increasing global demand of commercial, cargo, corporate and private aviation employers. AIM graduates are eligible to take the Federal Aviation Administration exams necessary to obtain their mechanic’s certificate with ratings in both Airframe and Powerplant. AIM’s campuses are in the following major metro areas: Atlanta, Charlotte, New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, San Francisco Bay, Orlando, and Norfolk. Learn more at www.AviationMaintenance.edu or like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AIM.edu.

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