HAPPY 100TH Birthday – Colonel Charles E. McGee
by A. Kevin Grantham
December 7th is a memorable day, when many Americans pause to honor the men and women who died at Pearl Harbor in 1941. In 2019, this day took on additional meaning in Frederick, Maryland, as the friends and family of Colonel Charles E. McGee gathered to celebrate his 100th birthday.
Colonel McGee is a true American. He is a retired fighter pilot who earned his wings with the Tuskegee Airman and saw combat in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He flew 409 combat missions in his thirty-year Air Force career, earning awards like the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with 25 Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Bronze Star. In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded Colonel McGee, along with everyone else whom served with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the nation’s highest civilian award. In 2011, McGee entered the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
Festivities began a day early, with a reception, hosted by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) at their National Aviation Community Center (NACC) located at Frederick’s Municipal Airport. At 0900 hours, Andrew McKenna took off in his highly polished P-51D Mustang and buzzed the field a couple of times to open the centennial celebration. Colonel McGee then followed by piloting a Cirrus Vision SF50 business jet to Dover Air Force Base to attend a special birthday reception before returning to Frederick for the legacy luncheon. After lunch, officials from the United States Congress, Federal Aviation Administration, Maryland Governor’s Office, AOPA, National Air & Space Museum, General Aviation and Manufacturers Association, as well as others, presented Colonel McGee with greetings and appreciation for not only his 100 years of life, but also for his long service to the United States of America and his community. Perhaps the most moving tribute came from Joshua Gibson, a sixth-grade student from Julius West Middle School in Rockville, Maryland.
The young student asked his mother if she would take him to the event. She was all in favor of granting the request, but there was one little problem – December 6th happened to be a school day, so he would have to find a way to get his teacher to excuse the absence. A few days later, Gibson presented his teacher with a paper he penned about the Tuskegee Airman. He was granted an excused absence and received a standing ovation after presenting his paper at the Colonel’s birthday party.
The Allied Airmen’s Preservation Society also greeted Colenol McGee, saluting this American hero as he arrived at the NCAA on December 7. And then Col McGee closed out the two-day celebration by flying a Cessna Citation M2 business jet with AOPA’s president, Mark Baker.
Colonel McGee said he lives by the four “P’s” – Perceive, Prepare, Perform, and Persevere. His dedication to service, and the inspiration he provides others to practice their four “P’s” was evident in the reception he received from all who attended the two-day event.
Blue Skies, Tailwinds, and many happy returns Colonel McGee!