Azellia White

Black History Hero | Azellia White
Posted on 02/13/2021
Azellia White

While most women had their feet planted firmly on the ground and in the home, Azellia White had her sights on something much higher. She’s the incredible woman who made history in Texas by being the first woman and first Black woman as a licensed pilot in Texas.

Ms. White is still making history, and doing it all at age of 105 years old. A birthday she celebrated 2018.

So what’s her secret to her old age? White told Eyewitness News she doesn’t smoke or drink, which she feels has helped her over the years.

Born in Gonzales, Texas, she married Hulon White in 1936, better known as “Pappy.” They moved to Tuskegee, Alabama five years later, where Pappy worked as a mechanic with the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

When asked, “What made you decide you wanted to fly?” White said, “My husband was a pilot and I learned to fly from him.”

Some of the airmen also took her under their wing – no pun intended – and taught her some of the nuances of flying.

“There weren’t too many black people flying,” she said. “And I said, ‘I can learn to fly,’ and I learned to fly. It was easy.”

Her inspiration was first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who visited the air base in 1941 and persuaded her husband to deploy the black pilots in World War II. White still marvels at that visit today, more than 70 years later.

“Mrs. Roosevelt helped us. She said, ‘I’m going back and tell them to let those black guys fly,’ and she did it and we took over.”

After getting her license, she served alongside her husband. When World War II came to a close, White and Pappy returned to Texas, and she continued to fly. Partnering with her husband and two other Tuskegee Airmen, she started the Sky Ranch Flying Service, located in south Houston. Sky Ranch served as an airport for the segregated African-American community and provided instruction to veterans interested in flying, as well as charter flying, cargo services, and other amenities to afford African-American G.I.’s and civilians the opportunity to learn about aviation. The company closed its doors in 1948, reportedly due to new legislation which restricted the use of the G.I. Bill, leading to a downturn in the flight training business, but Sky Ranch and all involved made its mark on the community.

Her godson James Miller, who’s also a pilot, says, “There’s such a thing as being a trailblazer. There are very few black female trailblazers in aviation.” After she was inducted into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame, Houston Independent School District (HISD) named the Aviation Science Lab at Sterling High School in her honor.

She’s received many other awards for her groundbreaking decision to fly. We were there when the Houston Area Urban League Guild honored her. Guild member Tony Provall agreed, saying, “She’s the epitome to me of everything that is possible when you put your mind to it.” But for White, it’s simple.

“I just had a good time in life,” she said.

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SDIRC would like to thank the Indian River County NAACP Branch #5151 for providing the content in today's 'Black History Heroes' biography.