Tuskegee Airman Theodore Lumpkin Jr. Dies of COVID Days Before 101st Birthday

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Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty

Theodore George Lumpkin, Jr., who was part of the famed group of African-American military pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen, has died of coronavirus at age 100, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Lumpkin died while being hospitalized for coronavirus complications on Dec. 26, the outlet reported. He was just four days away from his 101st birthday.

"As tragic as it is with COVID taking him, he still won in the game of life," one of Lumpkin's two sons, Kelly, told the Times. "He still got to do everything anybody should want to do."

Lumpkin — a Los Angeles native — also leaves behind his wife, Georgia, and a daughter.

It was just after the United States entered the Second World War in 1942 that Lumpkin was drafted into the Army, a biography on the Tuskegee Airmen website reads. Lumpkin, who was then a 21-year-old student at UCLA, was sent to Tuskegee Army Air Corps Base in Alabama and later assigned to the all-Black 100th Fighter Squadron as an Air Combat Intelligence Officer.

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The squadron would later be known as the Tuskegee Airmen and was highly regarded during WWII for proving "conclusively that African-Americans could fly and maintain sophisticated combat aircraft," a description on the Tuskegee Airmen page says.

"He didn't talk about it much," Georgia, whom Lumpkin met while finishing his education at USC, told the Times. "He'd maybe mention some incident or a buddy, but we were married for a number of years until I heard about them."

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"When I realized who these guys were and what they'd done, I was just overcome at how much they persevered," she said. "They did not bow down. They achieved things that detractors said they couldn't, weren't capable of doing."

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After retiring from the military as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves in 1979, Lumpkin served as a social worker before eventually opening a real estate company in Los Angeles.

Since 2007, he served on the board of directors of the Tuskegee Airmen, according to the group.

Lumpkin's family said after the pandemic hit, the veteran learned how to adapt to a changing world, and wore a mask while outside of his home. He even took Zoom calls for meetings.

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According to a New York Times database, more than 22.5 million people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the United States as of Monday morning, a figure that represents a 38 percent rise in cases over the last two weeks. More than 375,000 Americans have died from the virus so far, the outlet reported.

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