Retired Air Force Lt. Colonel Lee Archer, a former Tuskegee Airman during World War II, died January 27 at Cornell University Medical Center in New York City. He was 90.
Archer was born on September 6, 1919 in Yonkers, N.Y. and raised in Harlem. He attended New York University before dropping out and enlisting in the Army Air Corps.
At that time, African-American men were not allowed to fly in combat missions, and so his enlistment in the air corps was rejected. That led Archer to the Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black fighter pilot group. In his duty with the airmen during World War II, Archer downed five enemy planes, making him the first Black pilot to achieve an “ace” rating.
Archer retired from the military in 1970 and became vice president of General Foods. The job made him one of the first Blacks to be in such a position in a major U.S. company.
Archer ran North Street Capital Corporation, one of General Foods’ investment arms, which funded Essence Communications and Black Enterprise Magazine. During his time there, he also helped create another company, TLC Beatrice, which was the nation’s largest company to be owned and operated by African-Americans at that time.
Archer retired from General Foods in 1987 and started Archer Asset Management, a venture capital firm.
In January 2009, Archer was invited to attend President Obama’s inauguration along with other surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen. Respected by many for his talents and contributions, Archer leaves a lasting legacy.
“He had a heart of gold and treated people with respect,” fellow Tuskegee Airman, Dr. Roscoe Brown Jr., told the AP. “He demanded respect by the way he carried himself.”
Archer is survived by three sons and a daughter.