Rural Missouri - November 2010 - (Page 36)

N E I G H B O R S Tuskegee Airmen claimed kill after kill flying coverage for bombers heading to Germany. In time, bomber pilots began requesting the Tuskegee Airmen instead of erhaps it was inevitable that all-white units. “They said we never lost a James Shipley would become a bomber to an enemy warplane as long as mechanic. His grandpa drove a we were flying escort,” James says. truck, and when he had engine After earning enough points to receive problems, he pulled the old motor and left his discharge, James bid farewell to the it hanging in a tree across the street from Army Air Corps. He says plans were in the his grandson’s school in Tipton. works to form an all-black bomber group. “I could look out the window and see “They wanted me to stay in,” he says. that motor,” James says. “When it was “You know what they wanted me to do? recess time I would go over there, jerk the Tail gunner.” oil pan off, pull the valve cover, knock the James returned to Tipton where he pistons out. Then I’d wash up and go back resumed his career as a mechanic. Things to school. I liked that better than going hadn’t changed much for black people, out and trying to hit a baseball.” despite their contribution to the war. This early fascinaJames recalls a trip he made to Kansas tion with engines City in uniform. “I saw a sign that said ice gave James an Tipton cream and thought I would stop there and opportunity to • get one. I went up to the window and said serve with the I would like to have an ice cream cone. legendary She looked at me and said, ‘You have to go “Tuskegee around to the back. We don’t serve black Airmen,” people.’ So that kind of took the fire out of an all-black me. I said, ‘Well you keep the ice cream.’ I fighter group didn’t want it that bad.” organized during World War II. And it led Things were better back in Tipton. to a long career as a mechanic for Co-Mo “People around here have been nice to me Electric Cooperative. and I can’t complain,” James says. “We got After completing the three years of high to where we could go to a picture show or school offered to black students in the things like that without any segregation.” 1930s, James took a job as a mechanic in Now a master mechanic, James found a garage in Tipton owned by Paul Miller. his services in demand at a number of Miller had a bad back, so the young James garages. Every so often, a truck owned by offered to crawl under cars and do the othCo-Mo Electric would come in for repairs. er things his boss had trouble doing. “That “I told the manager that if I worked worked out pretty good for him and me, there and took care of those trucks, I could because it taught me, you see. And then I save him money,” he says. “I told him had that experience.” James Shipley served with the famed Tuskegee Airmen before returning that if I can’t show that I have saved the It wasn’t long before James turned his home to a career fixing trucks for Co-Mo Electric. He would stay for 29 company money in six months time, you skills to helping his country win World years after promising he would leave if he couldn’t save the co-op money. won’t have to tell me to leave. I’ll be gone. War II. James had heard that an all-black I stayed there for 29 years, so evidently I outfit was being organized at the Tuskegee must have done something right.” Institute in Alabama. “Paul Miller said if That was in 1956. James did all kinds of you want to go, go and when you come work for the co-op, which was just beginback home, you automatically got a job ning to wire the west side of the Lake of if you want it,” James says. “So I went to the Ozarks. He says that those early lineTuskegee as a mechanic.” men were rough on the trucks. He found himself taking basic train“That was understandable to me, but it ing under an ancient lieutenant the new wasn’t at first. Then I went down to where recruits thought would be a pushover. “We they were working,” he says. “They would were 19, 20, 21 years old. We said, ‘boy, tie a winch to another truck and then go we got it made.’ You’d come to a mud down this steep bank. Straight down, relypuddle and you want to walk around it. He ing on that winch to hold him. I don’t stopped us right there, chewed us out and know if I would have the guts to do that.” But the Tuskegee Airmen found an unexpected made us back up. He said, ‘I want you to dry that Now 87 and retired since 1985, James looks back champion in first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. On a vispuddle up.’” fondly on both his time with the Tuskegee Airmen it to the Tuskegee Institute, she asked for a ride in His next stop was Lincoln, Neb., where he and and Co-Mo Electric. “All I can say is the Lord’s one of the planes. When one of the white instruchis fellow mechanics would learn how to repair been good to me,” he says. “I liked history, but I tors offered to take her up, she insisted instead on airplanes. They learned every aspect of aviation never thought I would get to see it.” flying with one of the black pilots. mechanics, from engine work to hydraulics to James and his wife, Mildred, raised three chil“She went up with him and when they came wing assembly. Their training complete, they dren and each had the opportunity to go to colback down she said, ‘They are ready,’” James says. found no one in the Army knew what to do with lege. It’s not unusual for them to call with ques“She went back to Washington and it wasn’t long their first group of black aviators. Black soldiers tions about their cars. But James has just about before we were shipped out.” were thought to be unsuited for combat duty. quit working on his own. He’d rather fish. While the first Tuskegee Airmen went to North “We had a tough time getting placed because This summer, James went on an Honor Flight Africa, James and the rest of his unit ended up in we were an all-black unit and there was segregaorganized to take World War II veterans to WashItaly. The black airmen may have made it to the tion,” James says. “They didn’t think we could fly. ington, D.C. He says he was deeply moved by the war at last, but prejudice would continue to keep They couldn’t get too many black pilots because attention and thanks from those he saw. them out of combat. Instead, they were relegated they didn’t know what to do with them. They “We were just doing what we could,” he says. to flying shore patrol. Bored by the inactivity, they couldn’t send them to different schools to teach “We did what any other citizen would do if they complained and finally found a sympathetic ear. other pilots how to fly. They couldn’t have them got the opportunity.” Equipped with P-51 Mustang fighters, the in the office anywhere. We were just oddballs.” by Jim McCarty jmccarty@ruralmissouri.coop P The Mechanic Childhood fascination led James Shipley to a career turning wrenches for the Tuskegee Airmen and Co-Mo Electric 36 RURAL MISSOURI

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - November 2010

Rural Missouri - November 2010
Contents
Comments
Columns
Mobility's Best Friend
Mail Bag
Rural Issues Explored at AMEC Annual Meeting
Out of the Way Eats
The Missouri Connection
Big Screen Savings
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Best of Rural Missouri
Lest We Forget
Marketplace
Around Missouri
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - November 2010

Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Rural Missouri - November 2010 (Page Cover1)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Rural Missouri - November 2010 (Page Cover2)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Contents (Page 3)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Comments (Page 4)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Columns (Page 5)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Columns (Page 6)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Columns (Page 7)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Columns (Page 8)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Columns (Page 9)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Mobility's Best Friend (Page 10)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Mobility's Best Friend (Page 11)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Mobility's Best Friend (Page 12)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Mobility's Best Friend (Page 13)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Mail Bag (Page 14)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Mail Bag (Page 15)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Rural Issues Explored at AMEC Annual Meeting (Page 16)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Rural Issues Explored at AMEC Annual Meeting (Page 17)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Out of the Way Eats (Page 18)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Out of the Way Eats (Page 19)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - The Missouri Connection (Page 20)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - The Missouri Connection (Page 21)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Big Screen Savings (Page 22)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Big Screen Savings (Page 23)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Big Screen Savings (Page 24)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Hearth and Home (Page 25)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - News Briefs (Page 26)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Best of Rural Missouri (Page 27)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Best of Rural Missouri (Page 28)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Lest We Forget (Page 29)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Marketplace (Page 30)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Marketplace (Page 31)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Around Missouri (Page 32)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Around Missouri (Page 33)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Around Missouri (Page 34)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Around Missouri (Page 35)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Neighbors (Page 36)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Neighbors (Page 37)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Just4Kids (Page 38)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Just4Kids (Page 39)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Just4Kids (Page Cover4)
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