Phoenix Airport Museum Aviator Spotlight: Lincoln J. Ragsdale
The latest Phoenix Airport Museum pop-up exhibit highlights one of Arizona’s prominent historical figures, Tuskegee Airman Lincoln J. Ragsdale (1926–1995). Throughout his life of service and activism, Ragsdale was a notable aviator, entrepreneur and civil rights leader in Phoenix.
During World War II, Ragsdale became one of the first African American fighter pilots – a Tuskegee Airman – and was commissioned as second lieutenant by 1945. After the war, he continued his military career in an integrated gunnery unit and was one of the first black officers stationed at Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix.
In the 1950s, Ragsdale became a community leader who advocated for civil rights. He was instrumental in various reform efforts in Phoenix, including the desegregation of schools and neighborhoods. When Phoenix was segregated, Ragsdale and his family moved into an all-white neighborhood and became a local symbol of resistance to housing discrimination.
Amongst his military and social justice achievements, Ragsdale had multiple business ventures and even became Arizona’s first black funeral-home owner. He also continued in aviation as a civilian pilot, flying his private plane out of Sky Harbor Airport for nearly four decades. In honor of his advocacy for civil aviation at the Airport, Sky Harbor’s executive Terminal was renamed the Lincoln J. Ragsdale Executive Terminal in 1995.
To learn more about Lincoln J Ragsdale, visit the Phoenix Airport Museum pop-up exhibit at Terminal 4, level 3 near the central escalator wells. In addition to biographical information, the exhibition also includes images and objects from his aviator career, including his leather flight helmet and dress uniform.