Real Talk, Real Solutions: Retired colonel talks decades-long civil rights fight in Florida

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Herman Cole has led a life of service

At 76 years old, retired U.S. Air Force Col. Herman Cole will tell you he’s experienced things that most people will never.

TITUSVILLE, Fla. – At 76 years old, retired U.S. Air Force Col. Herman Cole will tell you he’s experienced things that most people will never.

When he was in high school, he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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“As a child in Charleston, I saw the Ku Klux Klan come out and burn crosses in front of my neighbor’s homes,” Cole said.

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Growing up in the segregated deep South, he witnessed to horrors of racism firsthand, but at a young age, he realized the power of unity.

“When I was in third grade, my aunt was an elementary school teacher and they would plan trips to Charleston Air Force base,” Cole said.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Herman Cole retired from the military in 1994. (Retired Col. Herman Cole)

He tagged along on one of those trips and saw Black and white people getting along, a rarity in 1954.

“It was not something you saw,” Cole said.

That trip to the Air Force base changed Cole’s perspective and his life. It’s part of the reason he’s been able to build relationships and rise through the ranks in the Air Force during his 26-year military career.

After high school, Cole attended Tuskegee University and went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force. His military assignments took the Vietnam War veteran all over the globe, from London to Saudi Arabia.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Herman Cole served in the military for 26 years. (Retired Col. Herman Cole)

When he retired in 1994, he held the rank of full colonel. But his service did not end there.

Since 1994, Cole has served on numerous community and civic boards, taking up roles like chairman on the Board of Directors of Parrish Medical Center and president of the Titusville Rotary Club.

In 2019, he created the Humanity Task Force for Social Change.

“I see us reverting back to the ‘50s and ‘60s, so I formed this Humanity Task force,” Cole told News 6.

Since 1994, Herman Cole has still continued to serve throughout Central Florida to continue the fight for equality. (Retired Col. Herman Cole)

His focus now is to continue his service in his community in Titusville, where he’s currently running for city council.

This Juneteenth, Cole’s mission spans beyond just service—he wants to share his knowledge with the next generation in hopes of getting closer to equality for all.

About the Authors:

Robert Brown is the assignment manager at News 6. He joined the team in July 2018 as a producer and was promoted in 2020. Before moving to The City Beautiful, he spent six years in Jacksonville at WJXT-TV. Robert graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism.

Tiffany produces the News 6+ Takeover at 5:30 p.m., Florida's Fourth Estate and Talk to Tom.