Veterans Voices

Town of Keyser to honor the only living Tuskegee Airman in West Virginia

The Tuskegee Airmen were African American military pilots in World War II

KEYSER, W.Va. - The Tuskegee Airmen were African American military pilots who served their country diligently during World War II. They earned more than 150 distinguished flying crosses, and helped integrate the U.S. Armed Forces.

One of those airmen is Clifton Eugene Brooks, who lives in Keyser, W.Va.   

"Most of the people don't even know who I am or where I come from, but they just heard from somebody else - that's Mr. Clifton Eugene Brooks," said Brooks, the only living Tuskegee Airman in West Virginia.

Brooks, who is now 96-years-old, served as a cryptologist during the war. He sent out codes to keep the airmen's missions a secret.

His children said that's one of the reasons why he kept quiet about what he did in the war for all these years.

"He wasn't allowed to talk about it for several years after the war, because they were still using the code that he was in charge of," said Raeford Brooks, one of Brooks' sons. 

But as time went on, he opened up about what happened during the war. Tim Brooks, another son, said he was watching the 1995 film, "The Tuskegee Airmen," when he saw a pilot crash at the base. He mentioned it to his father, and learned something new. 

"He says, 'I know about that, I was there.' So, at that point, I said, 'really?' He said, 'I helped clean up the wreckage on that crash."

Because of his heroic service to his country, the mayor of Keyser, Damon Tillman, made it his mission to recognize Brooks. 

"The city has never recognized him," Tillman said. "He's been recognized by the White House, he's been recognized by the newspaper, but the city never has. And it was my opportunity to recognize Mr. Brooks and his family."

Keyser's South End Park will soon be called Brooks Park. There will be a bronze plaque that will have a picture of Clifton Brooks, and it will mention his work with the Tuskegee Airmen.

"Mr. Brooks is so deserving," Tillman added. "His family grew up here, they visited this park all the time, his kids...and now, just to be able to give the park 'Brooks Park' is beyond words to me."

Brooks' family said they are thrilled to have a park named after their father. 

"It's a great thing for us, for the community. The community has come together," said Raeford Brooks. "It's just every day, someone comes up to me and thanks your dad for your service or were so proud of your dad."

Clifton Brooks hopes that now when people see him, they will know who he is. 

"And I can tell my people about well, this is that Clifton Brooks that nobody knew who he was, years ago, and we honored him."

Mayor Tillman said when the plaque comes in, the town will have a formal ceremony at South End Park for the renaming. 


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