Family honors memory of WWII Tuskegee airman who made SA home

Maj. James Johnson Kelly died at 90

SAN ANTONIO – A World War II Tuskegee airman who has called San Antonio home for decades has died at 90 years old.

Now, Maj. James Kelly’s family wants to make sure everyone in the Alamo City knows about his contributions and the legacy he leaves behind.

“He raised me, and I never ever wanted for nothing. He gave me everything I wanted, and my siblings,” said Eva Jones, who welled up with tears when talking about Kelly, a man she's known as dad ever since he married her mother decades ago when Jones was 9 years old.

“If I needed help with anything, had questions with anything that's bothering me, he was there,” Jones said.

The Tuskegee Airmen were mostly African-American. In World War II, they broke through barriers, flying and maintaining aircraft during combat. It was a role local landscape architect Everett Fly, who studies historic preservation, said was pertinent to the outcome of the war.

“It's really important for young people to know that and know that people ahead of them laid the groundwork for them to be able to achieve and go forward today,” Fly said

Though Kelly was born in High Point, North Carolina, years after the war, his family said, he made San Antonio home, becoming a history professor at Our Lady of the Lake University and a city commissioner.

Kelly's legacy continues to live on. 

“He gave advice to kids in the neighborhood, tell them how to succeed, but most importantly, tell them — he’d say, 'If you don’t do anything, go into the military,'” Jones said

Kelly’s family is preparing for his funeral. He will be buried at Fort Sam Houston Cemetery on Jan. 10 with honors.

About the Author: