Last Illinois Tuskegee airman remembered
MARKHAM, Ill. - Oscar Lawton Wilkerson, Jr., better known as Wilk, died on Feb. 8. He was the last surviving Tuskegee airman in the state of Illinois.
Wilk grew up in Chicago Heights and eventually settled in Markham. He passed away a day before his 97th birthday, but his legacy will remain forever.
Wilk became a bomber pilot after World War II in the country's first Black aviation combat unit. He later became a bus driver because he couldn't pursue his dreams of being a commercial pilot.
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He did buy a small plane with a friend so that he could still be able to enjoy his love of flying.
In 2007, Wilk was honored with a Congressional Gold Medal.
His life mission was to educate children and encourage them to go into aviation. His pastor of 13 years says he motivated everyone he met.
"He was a guy who we saw as a living legend here at the congregation. He was soft-spoken, a quiet guy. But he was a guy who liked to invest in other people. Wilk invested in generations of members of Hillcrest Baptist Church. And not just the church, even the whole community," said Rev. Adron Robinson of the Hillcrest Baptist Church.
The goal moving forward is to have a scholarship named after Wilk.