Richard R. Hall Jr., a U.S. Army veteran and Tuskegee airman, was described by close friends as a humble person, a servant and true patriot.
Hall was born Sept. 25, 1923 in Georgia but moved to Winter Park, Florida with his family when he was a baby. Hall died Jan. 25 at the age of 97.
Friends and family are remembering Hall and saying goodbye to the local hero.
“We had great friendship. I’ve known him since 2012. We did different things together, different Marine corps ball, Army ball, Navy ball,” Fred Robinson, a U.S. Vietnam war veteran said.
Robinson, who is the veteran’s liaison for Vitas Healthcare, said Hall joked he wanted to live to be 100.
“The Lord called him sooner cause the Lords needs his work now,” Robinson said.
As a young man Hall joined the Army and became part of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.
“He was a DOTA,” Robinson said, referring to the acronym that means a documented original Tuskegee Airman.
“It was very significant because they broke the color barrier. They were discriminated against; they weren’t allowed to fly and then they got the opportunity to fly, and they proved that they could fly,” Robinson said. “There were 991 approximate pilots but there were about 14,000 plus that served as ground crew, mechanics, logistics among other different service officers that were needed.”
The Tuskegee Airmen served as B-17 bombers escorts while flying over Germany.
“They were able to save those pilots who could’ve came from racist units that oppressed them from flying, well they saved a lot of them to come home and tell the story,” Robinson said.
Altogether, 992 pilots graduated from the Tuskegee airfield courses. They flew more than 1,500 missions and over 15,000 sorties. They are credited with destroying 261 enemy aircraft.
Hall established a military career and served in the US Air Force for 30 years. As a Tuskegee Airman he trained in munitions and aircraft maintenance during World War II. His career in the Air Force included deployment to North Africa, Italy and the South Pacific during the war.
After the war, Hall continued to serve his country during the Korean and Vietnam wars--despite continued segregation and racial discrimination.
“He served during three wars, so it tells you a little bit about the fortitude of the man; even though there was discrimination, he had a bigger mission,” Robinson said. “And that was to help be the format for the other African Americans and minorities in the United States to stand on the shoulders so they could serve their country.”
Hall’s life is honored among family, friends and his community. In 2019 he was the Grand Marshall during Eatonville’s MLK parade, and at Hannibal Square Heritage Center in Winter Park, a life size statue of Hall was created in 2015.
He’s described as a humble man with a sense of humor.
Dimitrius Peoples was Hall’s caregiver during his last 7 years. She was by his side they day he passed.
“When he would go to the doctor office and they would ask him: Mr. Hall what can we do for you today? Mr. Hall said: oh, just give me a teaspoon full of health and that would make me feel better,’” Peoples said. “I enjoyed the time that we spent together as not just his caregiver but as a family. It was a sad moment for me, but you know, he lived a good life. That’s all that mattered. He lived a good life. He was a good man.”
A Central Florida chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen International is named after Richard R. Hall Junior. To support or become a member, visit https://cflc-tai.org/