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Local Tuskegee airman to attend inauguration

warren_tuskegee_12_26_12

Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. James Warren is going to Washington D.C. to see President Obama sworn in for the second time. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

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From page A3 | December 27, 2012 | 3 Comments

VACAVILLE — Tuskegee Airman and retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Warren was pretty choked up four years ago when he was able to attend the inauguration of America’s first black president.

Next month, Warren expects to be pretty choked up again when he watches Barack Obama sworn in for his second term of office.

“And I will get to meet a lot of my buddies,” said Warren, who will be part of a contingent of original Tuskegee Airmen invited to attend the inauguration.

Warren received his invitation last week and is now getting prepared to head east.

Four years ago, Vacaville residents helped him get the money he needed to pay for the plane ticket and accommodations “but I am not asking for that now,” Warren said, adding he won’t turn down the donation of a few frequent-flier miles, though.

Four years ago, he and a large contingent of surviving Tuskegee Airmen gathered at Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., and then were bused to the Capitol for a ringside seat at the lower level of the Capitol Rotunda for the inauguration.

“It was absolutely fantastic,” Warren said of the 2009 ceremony. “I had a lot of tears flowing down my cheeks. I expect that the same thing will happen this time too.”

It was also cold, but Warren came prepared, wearing ski underwear. While waiting for the ceremony to begin, he spotted a very cold-looking woman standing behind a fence who looked like she had been waiting there for hours. He gave her his hand warmers to make the wait more bearable.

Warren, 89, expects there will be a lot fewer Tuskegees attending the inauguration this time, “because we have lost a lot of people during the last four years.”

Even though it has been four years since Obama took office, Warren’s excitement at seeing this step toward equality remains undiminished.

“I have seen a lot of changes in this country and I have fought three wars. To have an elected president who looks like me is fantastic,” Warren said.

Warren grew up in the cotton fields of Alabama and remembers hearing about President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s inauguration ceremony on the radio. He asked his mother if she had voted for Roosevelt. She replied that she could not “ ‘because we were black,’ she told me,” he said.

Warren, now a Vacaville resident, joined the Army Air Force in March 1943 and was assigned to the 477th Bombardment Group, which trained at Freeman Field in Indiana. He went onto serve 35 years in the Air Force, flying missions during both the Korean and Vietnam War, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or ithompson@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson has worked for the Daily Republic longer than he cares to remember. A native of Oregon and a graduate of the University of Oregon, he pines for the motherland still. He covers Vacaville and Travis Air Force Base for the Daily Republic. He is an avid military history buff, wargamer and loves the great outdoors.
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Discussion | 3 comments

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  • Rich GiddensDecember 26, 2012 - 4:17 pm

    It sounds very racist to me to hear blacks say that the reason they voted for the muslim marxist gay Kenyan was because hes black. Gee, I think I will vote for a candidate because of his skin color. Would Col. Warren vote for a thug like Robert Mugabe or Idi Amin too? After all, they think and act like the tyrant Obama too. And they're black! Woo hoo!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • alishaOctober 23, 2013 - 11:07 am

    This comes as a late reply but nowhere did the article say that Lt. Col Warren voted for Obama. Just that he was glad to see someone that looked like him elected. The idea is that it was once beyond belief/ acceptable thinking that someone not white would ever be elected - regardless of his politics. It would make more sense to ask if he voted for Obama before stating that his comment is racist. Talking about race doesn't make you racist. Being blinded by race makes you racist - regardless of your color.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • JoseDecember 29, 2012 - 9:02 am

    This is a great story. I had no idea we had a Tuskegee Airman living in our midst here in Vacaville. What a momentous occasion in our history, and he gets to see it happen twice!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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