SAN ANTONIO – As Dr. Granville Coggs' flag-draped body was wheeled out of his San Antonio nursing home Monday, people lined the hall and lobby to pay their respects.
The 93-year-old was not only a veteran but also a member of the Tuskegee Airmen. Many in the crowd saluted, said Cogg's daughter, Anita Rowell, while others gave signs of prayer.
"It was all I could do to not have tears in my eyes," Rowell said.
Rowell said her father took great pride in his place in the famous, pioneering group.
The Tuskegee Airmen, according to the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. website, include everyone involved in "the so-called 'Tuskegee Experience,'" in which African Americans were trained to fly and maintain military aircraft in the 1940s. The people involved helped to blaze a path for future black aviators during a time of racism and segregation.
"They had to fight just to fight," said Rick Sinkfield, president of the San Antonio chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc.
Coggs trained as a bomber pilot, bombardier and gunner, Sinkfield said. Coggs, however, finished his training around the time World War II ended, so he never flew in a combat zone.
"But he was a trained aviator and ready to do a lot of damage," Sinkfield said.
Rowell said that when she was growing up, she knew Coggs mostly as her father, the doctor. But when the Tuskegee Airmen began gaining more recognition in recent decades, that part of his life took a bigger role.
"From then on, he would describe himself as 'Granville Coggs, Tuskegee Airman,' even though he'd been 'the distinguished Dr. Coggs' for many, many years," she said.
"I think he felt that there were many distinguished physicians in this country -- around the world -- but there were only a few remaining Tuskegee Airmen," Rowell said. "And so for him to be defined in that rarified category meant much more to him as part of his self-definition."
Tuskegee Airmen like Coggs are becoming even rarer still. After Coggs's death, Sinkfield said their chapter has just three surviving Tuskegee Airmen.
But though they too will eventually join the "Lonely Eagles" chapter in death, their legacy is undoubtedly secured.
Coggs' services information:
Visitation hours will be held from 1-9 p.m. Friday, May 8, at the Porter Loring Mortuary at 1101 McCullough Ave.
The funeral service will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 9, at the Porter Loring Mortuary Chapel at 1101 McCullough Ave.