Moments in History: Willa Brown, Aviator


Willa Beatrice Brown (January 22, 1906 – July 18, 1992) was an American aviatorlobbyistteacher, and civil rights activist. She was the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license in the United States, the first African American woman to run for the United States Congress, first African American officer in the Civil Air Patrol, and first woman in the U.S. to have both a pilot’s license and an aircraft mechanic’s license.

Willa Beatrice Brown was born to Reverend and Mrs. Erice B. Brown on January 22, 1906, in Glasgow, Kentucky. She graduated from Wiley High School in Terre Haute, Indiana, and attended Indiana State Teachers College where she graduated in 1927 with a bachelor’s degree. Ten years later she earned an M.B.A. from Northwestern University.

Brown taught in Gary, Indiana, at Emerson High School‘s Roosevelt Annex from 1927 to 1932.

She then moved to Chicago, where she worked in a variety of jobs, including secretarial work, social work, and teaching. In 1934, she met John C. Robinson, who introduced her to the Challenger Air Pilots Association, a group of African American pilots.

image credit:


Gary, Indiana By Takingactioningary – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,…

Chris Light at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,…

Kentucky State Sign: Andreas Faessler – Northwestern: By Madcoverboy at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,…


Panorama: By Amerique – Own work, CC BY 3.0,…

FAA: By Matthew G. Bisanz, CC BY-SA 3.0,…

National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Glasgow, KY By Ichabod – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,…

Moments in History: Willa Brown, Aviator





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