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Edward Lunda, Tuskegee Airman from Akron, dies at 94

By PAULA SCHLEIS | Akron Beacon Journal (Tribune News Service) | Published: November 19, 2017

The war ended before Edward Lunda could be sent into battle, but the fact that he was ready to go was historically significant. Lunda was a Tuskegee Airman, among hundreds of African-American men who graduated from flight training school at the Tuskegee, Ala., air base during World War II.

It was the military’s first segregated program for pilots, bombardiers and navigators, and Lunda trained in 1944 to become a B-25 bombardier.

A Nov. 21 service is planned for Lunda, who died Nov. 3 at age 94.

Lunda was born in Akron and graduated from South High School, where he set a high-jump record in 1941. He went on to letter in track at the University of Akron before he was drafted.

When he saw that blacks were being recruited for aircraft combat, he signed up.

‘’I saw it as an opportunity to become an officer,’’ he told a reporter in 2009 just before he and his late wife, LaVonne, joined other surviving Tuskegee Airmen in accepting personal invitations to the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.

While 994 black men received commissions and pilot wings between 1941 and 1946, breaking racial barriers wasn’t easy.

“Edward Lunda had to deal with segregation and extreme prejudice to prove to the world that black men were intelligent and could become pilots and airmen,” his family wrote in his obituary.

In one incident, the War Department ordered officers’ clubs to be integrated, but the base commander at Freeman Field in Indiana decided to bar trainees as a way to keep the new black officers out.

When some black trainees were arrested for trying to enter the club, Lunda and others got involved.

‘’When the word got back to us at the base, we decided to go to the club, arriving in groups of three and four at a time. We wanted to show our support. About 100 of us were arrested,” he said.

It took 50 years to get the letters of reprimand that were placed in their files for that action removed.

World War II ended before Lunda could see combat.

‘’We were preparing to go overseas when Japan surrendered. So the war was over,’’ Lunda said. ‘’I never went overseas and I never dropped one bomb.’’

He continued his military career in the reserves and attained the rank of major before retiring at age 60.

In 2007, he and other Tuskegee Airmen received the distinguished Congressional Gold Medal in the nation’s capital from then-President George W. Bush.

Lunda went on to study accounting and eventually took a job with the city of Akron. He retired from the city’s income tax department, where he was an audit officer.

“At lunchtime he could often be seen strolling past O’Neil’s and other department stores in a business suit and tie with a folded newspaper under his arm, affectionately becoming known as ‘The Mayor of Main Street,’?” his obituary said.

After retirement, he became an avid golfer and loved smoking cigars while working crossword puzzles or sitting outside, people watching.

His family described him as a “good man, good father, gentleman, jewel, sweetheart, friendly and always had a smile on his face,” as well as someone who “loved the Lord dearly.”

Calling hours for Lunda will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Prince of Peace Baptist Church, 844 Garth Ave. in Akron.

The Rev. Timothy Wagner will give a eulogy at noon, and interment will follow at Mount Peace Cemetery. Procession will form at 2481 Thurmont Road.

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©2017 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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