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Tuskegee daughters to speak in Turlock and Denair
Tuskegee 1
Maj. George S. “Spanky” Roberts at the controls of a P-51 Mustang. Roberts was the first African American accepted for U.S. Army pilot training. He later commanded the 99th Fighter Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force).

Leigh Roberts and Michalyn Green are the daughters of the late Col. George S. “Spanky” Roberts, who served as the first commander of the Tuskegee’s 99th Fighter Squadron. For two days in October, the two will be in Turlock and Denair to share the stories of their father and the iconic Tuskegee military unit.

Roberts and Green will kick off their tour in Stanislaus County at noon on Oct. 18 at the fairgrounds in Turlock to speak with the Turlock Rotary. The next day, they will make two additional stops, first to Toscana’s Ristorante to meet with the Turlock Sunrise Rotary Club at 7 a.m. and at the Denair Community Center at noon to meet with the Turlock SIRs (Sons in Retirement).

According to Rotary and SIRs member Gary Potter, the Tuskegee daughters will speak and showcase a video presentation to attendees. The local organizations will also present the daughters with a plaque commemorating their historic visit.

“We hold events, but nothing of this magnitude,” Potter said. “We want to make this open for the public. We had mentioned the events for the last couple of weeks at our meetings, and we had people come up afterward to ask about it, so I would imagine it has garnered some attention and interest.”

The Tuskegee daughters travel across the state of California with the Sacramento Tuskegee Airmen Heritage Chapter, hosting events with schools and other community groups in hopes of spreading awareness of the aviation crew and their contributions to American history.

“The Tuskegee probably did the best job of any group of flyers in World War II. They were in demand because of their skills and expertise, and it’s unique that it’s an all-Black unit. At that time, there was a lot of [injustice] taking place with the Black community. I would imagine under that premise that there is interest and a need to have somebody tell their story,” Potter said.

Potter explained that the idea of brining the Tuskegee daughters to the Turlock area came after having conversations with members of the Sonora Rotary club, which strongly resonated and recommended that they try to book the group.

According to Caleb Vance of the 130th Airlift Wing, Spanky Roberts had more than 100 missions in four different continents over the course of World War II. After the war, he became the Senior Air Corps Reserve Officer Training Corps Instructor at the Tuskegee Institute and later became the Dean of the School of Military Science. He later earned his master’s degree at Ft. Leavenworth before reporting to Korea as a Colonel, commanding the 51st Air Base Group. In total, Roberts accumulated more than 6,000 flight hours. He passed away in March of 1984.

Potter encourages all who are interested in attending the events to RSVP with the respective clubs prior to Oct. 11.