PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Local Civil Rights fighter and Tuskegee Airman Wendell G. Freeland died at his home early Friday morning. He was 88-years-old.
Freeland was born in Baltimore, Md., on Feb. 21, 1925.
He attended Howard University on a scholarship. While there, he enlisted in 1943 to serve in World War II.
“I signed up one afternoon, a Friday afternoon. I was told I was shipping out; I got on a choo-choo train headed west,” he once told an audience.
Freeland became a Tuskegee Airman bombardier, serving on a B25 Mitchell Bomber in the 477th Bombardment Group in Selfridge Field, Mich.
He was also part of a group of officers that took part in what is known today as the Freeman Field Mutiny.
“A book about blacks in the Armed Forces by Lena Horne’s daughter asserts that our sit in, our problems at Freeman Field, Ind., our arrest were the beginning of the Civil Rights movement,” he said.
That action, considered a precursor to the sit-ins, is also said to have helped show the military the need to desegregate its troops.
After leaving the military honorable, Freeland earned his law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1950. Then, he moved to Pittsburgh and was admitted to the bar here in 1951.
While here, he became active in the pursing Civil Rights issues; one of the first being the safety of African Americans who tried to swim at the Highland Park swimming pool.
Continuing to 2010, he argued convincingly for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to admit posthumously George Vashon, an African American attorney who was rejected twice by the Allegheny County Bar.
“He was denied because he was of Negro decent,” Freeland once said.
Wendell Freeland, fighting for equality to the end.