On January 15, 2013, Northwest Indiana lost a living legend, Mr. Quentin P. Smith. Mr. Smith was born in Texas but grew up in East Chicago, Indiana. He was a community leader and an Indiana State University graduate who educated the youth about his experiences as a Tuskegee Airman. He would remember times when he stood up to discrimination.
In an oral history interview with Indiana Historical Society Editor Doug Clanin, Smith remembered:
“The immediate major said, ‘I order you to sign.’ I didn’t have any breath, I didn’t have any saliva left to say anything . . . I shook my head because I couldn’t even talk. So I said, ‘no’ [in high voice]. He rapped a gavel and said, ‘you go out that door.’ When I went out that door a soldier said, ‘Go back to your barracks, don’t put your head out, don’t come out, when suppertime comes, we’ll bring you your food.’ So I’m sitting there by myself thinking, ‘now this just can’t be true. I’m just about 190 miles from home and this just can’t be happening.’ But it was” (West, 2005).
Mr. Smith “received the Congressional Gold Medal. He is a member of the Chicago chapter of Tuskegee Airman,Organization of Black Pilots and sits on several aviation and education boards” (Zoom Info, 2013). He has touched the lives of many and will be missed.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson offered these words:
“The Gary community is certainly saddened by the passing of an icon, Dr. Quentin P. Smith. Affectionately known as ‘QP,’ his accomplishments as an educator and Tuskegee Airman gave us so much to be proud of. I am humbled that I had the opportunity to present him with the replacement Congressional medal last Spring. That ceremony was an opportunity for us to introduce Dr. Smith to a whole new generation of admirers and presented a firsthand history lesson to us all. Our prayers go out to his family, as he leaves behind a legacy that will never be forgotten.” – Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.