The photographs of African-American heroes line a hallway at Mission Trail Baptist Hospital, but in a small section of the cafeteria, its staff and visitors came to see a living legend.
At 89-years-old, Dr. Granville Coggs is still sharing his inspirational story that began in Pine Bluff, Ark.
Coggs said he is one of four surviving members of the famed Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, who now call San Antonio home.
Segregated as African-Americans, the Tuskegee Airmen defended the country President Abraham Lincoln described in his immortal Gettysburg Address.
“Conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” words that Coggs said he committed to memory as a young man.
In an interview following his presentation, Coggs said he was an 18-year-old college student at Howard University considering going pre-med or into physics, when he heard about the Tuskegee Airmen.
Coggs said he was among the last selected for what was considered an “experiment.”
“These people, many had graduate degrees when I came in,” Coggs said. “I was just a high school graduate but I passed the test that they gave me.”
Coggs said from then on, he went from being a gunner to a bombardier and then a pilot, flying B-25s.
After the war, Coggs received degrees from the University of Nebraska and Harvard Medical School.
He became a professor of radiology at the UT Health Science Center, a staff physician in the Bexar County Hospital District, and chief of radiology at the Audie Murphy VA Hospital.
Once retired, Coggs took to the track, winning three gold medals at the Texas Senior Games.
He said then at 85, he became an inspirational speaker sharing advice on how to live a long and healthy life.
“I used to think that genes are what determine, but now I’m more convinced it’s lifestyle more than genes,” Coggs said
Still health conscious, Coggs said he shuns sugar and urges others to avoid smoking.
“It’ll cut your survival 15 years. Those are big years,” Coggs said.
He also recommends aerobic exercise. Coggs said he still enjoys swimming.
Coggs said it also a matter of attitude. “Think beyond yourself,” Coggs said.
Coggs chatted and smiled as audience members took photos with him. Among those who heard Coggs speak, was Ken Jackson, Mission Trail’s director of human resources, who said he was struck by Coggs’ devotion to excellence.
Jackson said, “I’m very proud to even be in his presence.”