Robert T. McDaniel, the last member of the all-black elite military crew from Fort Worth that fought during World War II, has died at the age of 96.
Robert Tennerson McDaniel was born Feb. 28, 1923, in Mertens, Texas, to Alfred and Molly Valerie Queen Esther McDaniel. Robert was the only brother to Gladys and Carrie McDaniel. McDaniel was named after his fraternal grandfather, a pioneer Fort Worth physician.
Dr. McDaniel was a Christian, honored son, father, husband, gentleman, Tuskegee Airman, civil rights fighter, fraternity brother, and educator. He entered into eternal rest on March 19, 2019.
Dr. McDaniel graduated as valedictorian of his class at I.M. Terrell High School in 1940 and earned a scholarship to Prairie View College. Three years later, in September 1943 he was drafted into the army; he served in the Aviation Cadet Training Program. He served as an aviation cadet and U.S. Army Air Force flight officer. He was trained as a bombardier and as a pilot at Tuskegee Institute, Moton Field, and Tuskegee Army Air Field. Flight Officer McDaniel flew the TB-25J, serving as a flight officer with the 477th Bombardier Group.
He was one of the 101 officers of the 477th group involved in “The Freeman Field Officer Club Incident,” which led to the integration of all officers clubs and other military facilities previously off-limits to black officers. On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which ended racial segregation in the U.S. armed forces, saying, “There shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race.”
After the war, McDaniel returned to Prairie View University and earned both a BS and an MS degree along with his counselor certification from the University of Colorado (Boulder). McDaniel taught mathematics in the Fort Worth ISD in 1949; served as a counselor at I.M. Terrell Junior-Senior High School; volunteer coach; vice principal at Dunbar Junior-Senior High School; and principal at James E. Guinn and Morningside Middle schools. On Feb. 23, 2006, McDaniel was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by Tuskegee University.
On March 29, 2007, President Bush awarded McDaniel and his comrades the Congressional Gold Medal of Freedom, which recognized their “unique military record that inspired revolutionary reform in the Armed Forces.”
In January 2009, McDaniel was invited by President Barack Obama to attend his inauguration. McDaniel accepted Christ at an early age. He and his wife joined the St. Peter Presbyterian Church. One of his last words stated that he had a blessed life.
McDaniel was preceded in death by his wife of 55 years, Hester Randle McDaniel.