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University of Dubuque to Host Captain Robert L. Martin Black Heritage Tribute Kick-Off Event

By University Relations Staff
Captain Robert L Martin

DUBUQUE, Iowa - The University of Dubuque will debut a new initiative to celebrate Black lives, creativity, ingenuity, and contributions to American heritage with the Captain Robert L. Martin Black Heritage Tribute Kick-Off Event on Monday, September 27, 2021, in Heritage Center.

The event is free and open to the public.

Captain Martin was an original member of the Tuskegee Airmen, a Black segregated aviator group in the US Army Air Corps. The man known as "Fox" grew up in Dubuque and, at the age of 23, graduated from flight training at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. He joined the 100th Fighter Squadron, part of the all-Black 332nd Fighter Group. In 1945, while flying his 64th mission, Captain Martin's plane was hit by enemy fire. He bailed out and landed behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia. After a month at an Allied mission manned by British soldiers, Captain Martin was airlifted to Italy and eventually returned home. Following the war, he received his military discharge at the rank of captain.

Captain Martin received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Purple Heart. In 2007, he was among the recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony honoring the Tuskegee Airmen.

The Captain Robert L. Martin Black Heritage Tribute Kick-Off Event will begin at 6:30 p.m. in John and Alice Butler Hall with a program featuring speakers who will underscore the life and legacy of Captain Martin. Speakers will include Gabrielle and Dominique Martin, two of Captain Martin's children; Nelson Edmonds, dean of student engagement at UD; Brian Hallstoos, associate professor of history at UD; Michael Phillips, director of aviation student engagement at UD and chair of the Dubuque Regional Airport Commission; Kenneth Rapier, president and chief pilot of the Chicago Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen; and Kim Rowe (C'16), coordinator of the Young Eagles, a program developed by the Experimental Aircraft Association and cosponsored by the Chicago Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen.

The event will continue at 7:30 p.m. in the Bisignano Art Gallery with the opening of "12: America's First Black Tuskegee Airmen." The exhibit will be open through Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. Near the art gallery will be "Unconditional Loyalty: The Military Service of African Americans," a portable exhibit from the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Complimentary refreshments will be available.

The evening will conclude with a screening of Red Tails, a 2012 film about the Tuskegee Airmen, at 8:00 p.m. in John and Alice Butler Hall.

Captain Robert L. Martin Black Heritage Tribute programming is made possible, in part, through the City of Dubuque's Arts and Culture Special Projects grant funds and in partnership with the Dubuque Regional Airport.

The Captain Robert L. Martin Commemoration Committee is fundraising to name the Dubuque Regional Airport terminal in honor of Captain Martin.