A lesson in standing up from Col. Hubert "Hooks" Jones

Black History

Fletcher H. Wiley | 2/6/2014, 6 a.m.
Over the years, people around the nation have asked me what was it like to be a black cadet at ...
Col. Hubert L. “Hooks” Jones (center) was part of the famous Tuskegee Airman unit that flew for the Air Force in World War II. Later, he served as a professor of air science at the Tuskegee Institute.

It was small, southern and rural — particularly the black side of town where we were headed. I could not imagine having a good time in this place. When we pulled up in front of a friend’s home, there on the front porch, chit-chatting about the events of the day were five of the most beautiful young women I have ever seen in one place at one time.

I couldn’t believe such pulchritude was available in this hick town! We bounded out of the car, made ourselves known, and socialized a bit. However, we soon had to resume our trip to Plummer’s house where we were staying. The young ladies said that they would see us later at the party. Plummer said don’t worry about leaving them — there were plenty more where they came from. And man was he right!

The people of Tuskegee could not have been more welcoming and hospitable. Many of them were around when the Tuskegee Airmen were in training there. To them we represented a new generation of accomplished black air cadets. Our uniforms and our military bearing evoked fond memories in the old folks and sparked new flames of adoration and respect in the younger ones.

I don’t mind telling you that we enjoyed the notoriety immensely as we went from house to house to meet and pay respect to the town’s black leadership. We all stayed with Plummer and his family and we visited with folks, ate and partied that Friday night, and looked forward to our weekend of fun.

Saturday morning was reserved for sight-seeing and visiting, and one of the last stops was the home of Col. Hubert L. “Hooks” Jones, the professor of air science at Tuskegee Institute. “Hooks,” a former the Tuskegee Airman who had stayed in the Air Force at the end of World War II, was a local legend in his own right. His warm welcome and beaming smile when we met spoke of the immense pride and respect he felt toward us as we carried forth his legacy.

He entertained and mesmerized us with stories of his military career — the planes he flew, the battles he fought, and the men he knew. We were well into the rousing conversation when he asked how we happened to be in Tuskegee. Then, with great satisfaction in our own cleverness, I related the entire story of how the major had requested that we not come to the dance, and we had leveraged that plea into a weekend in Tuskegee with partying, food, music and all of the pretty girls! We could not have been more self-satisfied with our wisdom and good fortune.

Suddenly, the smile left Hooks face as he stood-up in our midst and calmly said: “Gentlemen, You have to go back to Fort Benning and attend that dance!” At first, I thought he was kidding; and I laughed at the joke as I replied “Sir, I don’t think you understand. We hate going to those dances, and we were extremely fortunate to get out of this one. Besides, the major was right: Our presence at the dance would not be greeted happily by the City Fathers of Columbus, and we would put the base commanders, the Army, and the Air Force in an embarrassing position.”