ARLINGTON, Va. — Family, friends and grieving community members gathered at Arlington National Cemetery in memory of Brigadier General Charles McGee as he was laid to rest Friday morning.
The celebrated Tuskegee Airman from Bethesda died at the age of 102 and was one of the last airmen still living. His funeral was in Chevy Chase in February.
McGee was born on Dec. 7, 1919, in Cleveland, Ohio and served as a Tuskegee Airmen pilot in World War II and an Air Force fighter pilot in the North Korean and Vietnam wars. He protected the Eighth Air Force bombers as part of the famous "Red Tails Squadron." Back then, white pilots were sent home after 50 missions. But McGee flew 136 missions over Nazi Europe. He then served in Korea and Vietnam, before retiring from the U.S. Air Force with the rank of Colonel in 1973. He flew more than 400 total combat missions across three wars.
“Folks keep saying, ‘You’re a hero,’” McGee told WUSA9 in 2019. “I just served the country in a time of need.”
The service at the cemetery Friday featured a military flyover, including Red Tail F-16s from the Alabama Air National Guard 187th Fighter Wing and T-1A Jayhawks from the 99th Flying Training Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio.
McGee was honored by many, from neighbors to presidents. The general was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by former President George W. Bush in 2007 and was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2020.
Another dedication to McGee commences Saturday when a Silver Spring library is officially named in his honor. McGee's family will be present at the ceremony at Silver Spring Library. The event is open to the public and the ceremony will take place at 900 Wayne Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland, 20910.
Initially, Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando submitted the request for the name change and Marc Elrich then signed the executive order.
"Brig. Gen. McGee served in the all-black Tuskegee Airmen unit in World War II, followed by completing combat missions in the Korean and Vietnam Wars," Jawando wrote in his letter. "He fought against racism and for equality his entire career and paved the way for many African American service members. A Montgomery County resident for many years, Brig. Gen. McGee has always prioritized learning and engaging with young people and serves as a role model to so many Montgomery County residents and Americans. It would be fitting that one of our largest county libraries - a place where we learn about history and also seek to better ourselves - be named after a man of such great honor."
The switch was fitting for the longtime Montgomery County resident, who resided in the county for 30 years.