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[PCUSANEWS] California elder s gift pays tribute to the late Lawrence Roberts, a famed Tuskegee Airm

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Date Tue, 27 Feb 2007 11:29:19 -0500

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07094 February 15, 2007

California elder's gift pays tribute to the late Lawrence Roberts, a famed Tuskegee Airman

Bill Saul's donation to UC-Riverside archive also honors his MIJHH co-chair, Lucimarian Roberts

by Emily Enders Odom MIJHH communications officer

RIVERSIDE, CA - Bill Saul, an elder at Grace First Presbyterian Church, Long Beach, CA, and a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s General Assembly Council (GAC) was recognized by the Libraries at the University of California-Riverside, on Feb. 10, for making the first gift to the Western Region Tuskegee Airmen Archive there (

Saul's gift honors both the late Lawrence Roberts and his widow, Lucimarian Roberts, with whom Saul worked for four years as co-chair of the Mission Initiative: Joining Hearts & Hands (MIJHH) - the $40 million campaign to raise funds for new overseas mission personnel and for church development in this country, particularly new racial ethnic and immigrant congregations.

The Feb. 10 event celebrated the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Tuskegee Airmen and Airwomen.

Lawrence "Larry" Roberts, who died in October 2004, was in the class of 1944 at Tuskegee and rose to the rank of colonel. He was a former vice moderator of the GAC, also served as moderator of the Presbytery of Mississippi and was an elder at First Presbyterian Church, Bay St. Louis, MS. He Among the 19 service medals and awards received during his distinguished military career are the Legion of Merit with Two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the United States Air Force Commendation Medal and the Distinguished Service Order and Air Service Medal. His military service included numerous flying, technical and command assignments in the United States, Japan, Canada, Turkey and Vietnam.

Lucimarian Roberts, who, with Saul, co-chaired the MIJHHcampaign until April 2006, is an also an elder at First Presbyterian Church of Bay St. Louis. She is a former trustee of Columbia Theological Seminary, and was a board member of the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program. Mrs. Roberts also served on the Mississippi Permanent Judicial Commission and on the National Self-Development of People (SDOP) Committee as vice chair.

"Lucimarian and I are like sister and brother," Saul said. "Co-chairing Joining Hearts & Hands brought us together from the beginning, and also introduced me to Larry, whom I greatly admired. It is my privilege to honor this fine couple's legacy with this special tribute."

Current co-chairs of the MIJHH campaign, which is scheduled to conclude at the 218th General Assembly (2008), are the Rev. Joanna Adams of Atlanta, GA, and the Rev. Dave Peterson of Houston, TX.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American pilots to be trained for combat during World War II. Known as "the Red Tail Angels" by other flyers, they flew 1,578 missions and 15,533 sorties, destroyed 261 enemy aircraft, and won more than 850 medals. German pilots called them "Schwarze Vogelmenschen" or Black Birdmen. In March 2006, legislation conferring the Congressional Gold Medal on the Tuskegee Airmen in recognition of their heroism was signed into law. The Medal will be awarded to the individuals in Washington, D.C. later this year.

The original Tuskegee Airmen include members from the first aviation cadet class that began in July 1941 at the Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF) and Tuskegee Institute (Tuskegee, Alabama) and extended through the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Composite Group in 1948. Some 992 pilots graduated from the Tuskegee Airfield courses.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest award that may be bestowed by the U.S. Congress. The decoration is awarded to any individual who performs an outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States. The U.S. Mint creates each Congressional Gold Medal to specifically commemorate the person and achievement. Past recipients include George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Irving Berlin, Robert Frost, Bob Hope, and Robert Kennedy.

In February 2006, the University of California-Riverside Libraries dedicated the Western Region Tuskegee Airmen Archive at the Tomas Rivera Library. For the last year, UCR Libraries has been digitizing and indexing the archives of the Airmen to make them more easily accessible to scholars, researchers, the K-12 community, and the public at large. Most recently the Archive received papers, memorabilia, and photographs from the Roberts family to be included in the Archive.

"As the years have gone by," Lucimarian Roberts said, "we've been able to see what the Tuskegee Airmen were all about. We have come to know that those who followed the 99th Fighter Squadron did the work of integration, and it was Larry's dream that one day the Tuskegee Airmen would just be known as 'American' pilots."

"I know that Bill Saul's tribute to Larry in dedicating the display cases where his pictures will be displayed has meant a great deal to our whole family," she added. "We can't adequately express our gratitude to Bill for his generosity and compassion."

Roberts, who is also the mother of Robin Roberts, a co-anchor of ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" program, will be joining her famous daughter Feb. 21 at another event honoring Larry Roberts' service with the Tuskegee Airmen. Both will be speaking at the National Consortium for Academics and Sports' (NCAS) Annual Conference in Orlando, FL. The NCAS will be honoring two Tuskegee Airmen, Roberts and Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, Jr., as they are inducted into the Hall of Fame. Larry Roberts' honor will be posthumously accepted by his daughter, Robin.


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