Audley Coulthurst, a barrier-breaking aviator who was a member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen all-black fighter pilot group, has died, according to his family.
Coulthurst, of Jamaica, Queens, died Thursday after suffering cardiac arrest, his daughter Audra Coulthurst told The Associated Press. He was 92.
Audley Coulthurst joined the Army in 1942, and became one of the country’s first black military aviators as part of the pioneering Tuskegee Airmen pilots group that fought in World War II. As the pilots fought the Axis forces overseas, they also fought against discrimination and for equal treatment during a period of segregation.
Coulthurst served in the U.S. Army Air Corps between 1942 and 1946. He was a radio operator on the Airmen’s B-25 bomber, and also trained as a machine-gunner.
“Today we lost a hero who fought for freedom abroad and equality at home,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote in a Twitter post Saturday.
Coulthurst on several occasions appeared at Long Island events honoring the group of trailblazing pilots.
In February 2013, at the age of 88, Coulthurst spoke to students at Gardiner Manor Elementary School in Bay Shore, as part of a Black History Month event, sharing his experiences.
Coulthurst told Newsday at the time that he enjoyed speaking with children because it inspired him as much as he hoped he inspired the students.
In April 2013, Coulthurst joined other surviving Tuskegee Airmen in Uniondale, where a portion of Oak Street was renamed “Tuskegee Airmen Way” in their honor.
“They were the Jackie Robinson of the aviation industry,” Nassau Deputy Executive for Health and Human Services Phillip Elliott said at the street renaming ceremony. “It’s an emblem of hope and a significant piece of the puzzle of American history.”
On Saturday, the New York City Department of Veterans Services in a Twitter post wrote: “Audley Coulthurst unselfishly served his country in a time when it failed to serve him. We’re forever grateful for Mr. Coulthurst’s service.”
Audra Coulthurst said after the war her father became a certified public accountant and served as controller of the National Urban League.
He is survived by his wife, Matilda Coulthurst, and a son, Jeffrey Coulthurst.