Shelby Westbrook wanted to serve his country as a pilot in World War II even though he had never even been in a plane before.
That’s according to his nephew Eric Leonard.
Leonard says Westbrook got his training at the Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama.
He flew missions over France and Yugoslavia.
A History Channel documentary states Westbrook flew a total of 60 missions, the last coming on April 1, 1945.
A native of Arkansas, Westbrook made his way to Chicago following the war.
Leonard says his uncle talked about the racism he faced in the service and at home.
“While he was in the service, he mentioned several times that racism had affected him. At one point he was near German troops, captured German troops,” Leonard said. “He said the troops were treated better than he was. He saw it, accepted it and didn’t like it. But it didn’t make him bitter.”
In Chicago following the war, Westbrook worked as an electrical engineer, a job he secured after being denied entrance to an engineering firm because of discrimination.
He died Wednesday at the age of 94.