Captain Louis Freeman made his last flight as a Southwest Airlines pilot on Thursday, ending a 36-year career in which he became the nation’s first African-American chief pilot at a major airlines, The Washington Post reports.
CBS News Dallas said family, friends and colleagues gathered at the gate to celebrate Freeman, who is turning 65, the federal retirement age for airline pilots.
“You paved the way for so many of us, and I’m just thankful,” a flight attendant told Freeman, as her tears fell, CBS Dallas reported.
Freeman, a former Air Force pilot, joined Southwest in 1980, becoming the airline’s first Black pilot. In 1992, the airlines named him chief pilot in Chicago, making Freeman the first African-American to hold the prestigious management position at a major U.S. airline.
Only 3 percent of commercial pilots are African American, The Post noted.
Despite advances, flight decks of U.S. airlines remains the domain of White men, according to The Hill. In 2016, a group of 18 Black United Airlines pilots urged federal officials to investigate an alleged pattern of hiring discrimination at the airlines, CBS News reported.
Freeman recalled the stress of being Southwest’s first Black pilot. “I put a whole lot of pressure on myself because I had to get it right,” he told The Post. “I had to be perfect because I wanted them to hire more of us.”
During his distinguished career, Freeman had the honor of serving as one of the all-Black pilot crew that flew Rosa Park’s body to her final resting place, at the request of the NAACP.
Freeman has a quiet determination and humble spirit, nurtured from childhood.
“I was raised to think that I was as good as anybody; but, better than nobody… and that’s how I still feel. I can do anything that I put my mind to, that I put my heart into,” he told CBS Dallas.
That’s a message he shared with Christopher Goods, a 10-year-old African-American boy, who saluted him before his last flight.
Happy Birthday, Barack Obama: Photos That Will Make You Miss Your Favorite President
1. Barack Gives Daughter Malia a KissSource:Getty 1 of 29
2. Michelle and Barack tell the kids a storySource:Getty 2 of 29
3. Michelle and Barack KissSource:Getty 3 of 29
4. Michelle and BarackSource:Getty 4 of 29
5. First Family PortraitSource:Getty 5 of 29
6. Two TermsSource:Getty 6 of 29
7. Michelle and Barack host a State DinnerSource:Getty 7 of 29
8. Barack Obama and Michelle ObamaSource:Getty 8 of 29
9. Sunday ChurchSource:Getty 9 of 29
10. Barack Obama and his daughter Malia ObamaSource:Getty 10 of 29
11. A Family AffairSource:Getty 11 of 29
12. Flashback To The Old DaysSource:Pete Souza 12 of 29
13. Happy Birthday!Source:Getty 13 of 29
14. Candidly AwesomeSource:Pete Souza 14 of 29
15. Historic First FamilySource:Getty 15 of 29
16. Ice Cream TreatSource:Getty 16 of 29
17. TV TimeSource:Pete Souza 17 of 29
18. Hawaii Trip!Source:Getty 18 of 29
19. Obama Loves Team USA & His WifeSource:Getty 19 of 29
20. Reading TimeSource:Pete Souza 20 of 29
21. Family SupportSource:Getty 21 of 29
22. Supporting MomSource:Pete Souza 22 of 29
23. Giving Back On MLK DaySource:Getty 23 of 29
24. Obamas Give Back To The CommunitySource:Getty 24 of 29
25. Always Supporting Small BusinessesSource:Getty 25 of 29
26. Obama SwaggerSource:Getty 26 of 29
27. Laughs & TurkeysSource:Getty 27 of 29
28. Christmas With The ObamasSource:Getty 28 of 29
29. 50th Anniversary Of March On SelmaSource:Pete Souza 29 of 29
First African-American Chief Pilot At Major Airlines Retires was originally published on newsone.com