Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Black Female Aviation Pioneer Inspires Jacksonville Crowd at Annual MLK Breakfast

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Black Female Aviation Pioneer Inspires Jacksonville Crowd at Annual MLK Breakfast

Article excerpt


Vernice "Flygirl" Armour wanted nothing to do with flying until a chance encounter with a black woman in a flight suit changed her life forever.

It was a brief moment of inspiration in the 1990s while she was still in college, but it was enough to make her believe she could accomplish something that once seemed impossible.

Before that moment she had always dreamed of becoming a mounted police officer and had joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps because she would "do anything to shoot a gun or blow something up."

But she went on to become America's first black female combat pilot by flying an AH1W Super Cobra in the Marines, and she shared her inspirational story Friday morning with members of the Jacksonville community at the 31st annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast.

"If you want something, you can't just sit in your chair and raise your hand ... you've got to stand up," Armour told the audience.

She pointed out a group of men in the crowd at the Prime Osborn Convention Center who broke barriers long before she took the controls of a helicopter. Armour said it almost brought her to tears when she got the chance to talk with the members of the Montford Point Marines - the country's first black Marines - before Friday's event.

Her grandfather was a member during World War II, so Armour said she felt a very personal connection to the men.


It gave her a great deal of pride to see that the men in the crowd who fought in the Marines with her grandfather were now wearing Congressional Medals of Honor. She said the awards were truly an honor they deserve.

"It makes me feel real good, and it makes me feel blessed that I'm still alive and people appreciate the things we did," said 93yearold Alpha P. Gainous, a local member of the Montford Point Marine Association.

He said young members of the black community need be true to themselves and their families before everything else if they want to follow in his footsteps.

Gainous was one of the older people in attendance Friday, but others with bright futures got a chance to share their ideas with the crowd.

Jerome Singleton, Kaila Skeen and Kehinde "Kenny" Sogbesan were selected as Tomorrow's Leaders of 2018.

Each submitted an essay after they were nominated by a teacher, mentor or nonprofit organization. They were chosen by a panel of judges and read their essays during the breakfast Friday morning.

Singleton is in the fifth grade at R.V. Daniels Elementary and compared his community to a colony of ants. He said everyone in the community plays a part, and no ant is ever left behind. …

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