“As soon as I got up there, I knew absolutely this is what I wanted to do,” said Air Force pioneer Roy LaGrone of his journey from young passenger aboard a Ford Trimotor plane to original Tuskegee Airman pilot turned prolific artist.
As one of many African Americans of his era fighting against the axis overseas and against racial prejudice in the U.S. armed forces, Lagrone trail-blazed from cockpit to canvas after his honorable discharge in 1946.
He studied fine art and drawing at the Pratt Institute in New York, jumpstarting a career that encompassed art direction, book jacket and album cover design and, in 1961, acceptance by the prestigious New York Society of Illustrators as an artist member.
LaGrone’s path first led him to Europe after he was drafted into the Army Air Corps as a sergeant. He later received an assignment back to the Tuskegee’s 318th Air Base Squadron in Alabama, where he was commissioned as a flight officer.