LT George S. Lima (1919-2011), a Tuskegee Airman, was born April 4, 1919, son of Cape Verdean immigrant
parents who settled in Fall River. His father worked in a mill, while his mother and other family members ran a boarding house and a grocery store. When the Depression hit in the early 1930s, the family moved to New
York in an attempt to find jobs. While there, George went to junior high school with a fellow named Charles “A-Train” Dryden, who later gained renown as a Tuskegee fighter pilot who wrote a book about his experiences.
Lima returned to Fall River, graduated from Durfee High School and received a scholarship to play football at North
Carolina A&T in Greensboro. He trained as a private pilot while he was in college, and learned to fly in a two-seater. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in February 1942, shortly after WWII broke out. Although accepted as an aviation cadet in Class 42-I, he did not complete pilot training, and was sent instead to the Army Air Corps Administration School OCS in Miami. He then went to Lowery Field in Denver, Colorado, to learn aerial photography.
He returned to Tuskegee Army Air Field as base photography officer, where he recorded the Tuskegee experience for posterity. His album includes photographs of Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., who became the first black general in the Air Force; LTC Charles “A-Train” Dryden, Lima’s boyhood friend from New York and the author of “Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman”; jazz singer Lena Horne; the Mills Brothers; and heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis.
(An amateur boxer, Lima reportedly got into the ring with Louis and sparred a few rounds when Louis visited the Tuskegee airfield.)
Mr. Lima was also a Photography Officer for the 477 Bombardment Group. After his discharge in 1946, Lima and
his new wife and daughter returned to Fall River. He went to Brown University, where he played football and helped found the University’s chapter of Omega Psi Phi, a black fraternity. He studied sociology, and received his BA degree in 1948.
Concerned about job discrimination and other civil rights issues, he became president of his local union and then worked as a full-time labor organizer for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.
Lima’s union work eventually took him to Washington, D.C., where he became an administrator for such federal programs as the War on Poverty and VISTA. He worked for many years in the Office of Economic Opportunity, culminating his federal career as State Director of OEO for the State of Rhode Island. Back in Providence, he served as president of the local NAACP.
Mr. Lima also entered politics, serving two terms in the RI General Assembly as the Representative for District 83 in East Providence. Mr. Lima, a civil rights activist, has been affiliated with many organizations pursuing social justice, especially Cape Verdean advocacy groups. In retirement he continued to be an active participant in civil
rights, political and community issues. He was founder and the CEO of the Black Air Foundation, dedicated to empowering minority youths through education and training. He also helped launched the Lambert-Lima Flying Squadron Cadet Program, to attract local children into aviation. Mr. Lima died in 2011.
More in 2009:
More in Minorities in Aviation:
- 2/LT William P. Armstrong
William P. Armstrong (1924- 1945) was a Tuskegee Airman/Fighter Pilot, shot down in action on April 1, 1945.
- Paul Broadnax
Paul Broadnax, the child of two well-known and influential Boston-area classical musicians, played with the Tuskegee Airmen military band and dance band.
- 2/LT Walter S. Gladding