Civil Air Patrol

Willa Brown

Breaking barriers – that’s what Willa Brown did! Not just one, not just two, but a lifetime of striving to achieve equality for African-Americans in aviation. Willa Brown was born in 1906 and raised during a time when equality for blacks and women was simply not the norm. But that didn’t stop Willa Brown. 

She broke barriers educationally: Not only did she earn both a bachelor’s degree in business, but she went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration in 1934. She worked in a variety of government jobs during 1927 and 1939, when many people were unemployed due to the Depression. And somewhere during that time, Willa Brown got the idea that that she wanted to fly.

She broke aviation barriers: Learning to fly wasn’t easy – Willa couldn’t just go down to the local airport since blacks were discouraged from flight. She found two black aviators in Chicago and with her typical determination became the first black woman to obtain her pilot’s license in the U.S. In addition to flying, she was a licensed aircraft mechanic and taught classes in that field. Alongside her husband, she opened the first flight school owned and operated by blacks in Chicago. And she was the first black woman to earn a commercial pilot’s license in the U.S.

She broke barriers in Civil Air Patrol: When World War II began, Willa Brown didn’t sit idle, but rather she continued to strive to integrate blacks into aviation schools on a national level. She worked toward a racially integrated Civilian Pilot Training Program, Civil Air Patrol, and U.S. Air Force. In 1941, Willa Brown joined the Chicago squadron of Civil Air Patrol, becoming the first African-American officer in CAP.

She broke barriers during World War II: The U.S. military asked her flight school to train black pilots and flight instructors. The program Willa Brown began led to the Tuskegee Institute’s 99th Pursuit Squadron. Her goal of integration was getting closer to reality.

She broke barriers in politics: After the war, Willa Brown became the first black woman to run for Congress, although she was did not win in her three attempts. But that didn’t stop her from working for change. She continued to advocate for integration and served on the FAA Women’s Advisory Board in the 1970s.

Willa Brown never met a barrier she didn’t break.


Willa Brown

Post Your Comments

Indicates a Required Field
Email Address:
All comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.
Stories Media
History Blog
Bios Contact
Photos Sitemap
Contact Us
CAP National Headquarters
105 South Hansell Street, Building 714
Maxwell Air Force Base, AL 36112

Julie DeBardelaben
Deputy Director, Public Affairs
334-549-2224 (cell)

Steve Cox
Public Affairs Manager
334-296-5881 (cell)
Follow Us
facebook twitter youtube
© 2019 Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters. All rights reserved.
© 2019 Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters. All rights reserved.