George Watson Sr., an original Tuskegee Airman, died on Monday, June 19, 2017 due to complications of pneumonia. He was 96.
He was born on Aug. 10, 1920 to the late Jack and Anna Watson in Wildwood, N.J. He graduated from Lakewood High School in 1941. He played football at Lakewood High and was recently inducted into the school’s hall of fame.
Watson enlisted in the United States Army on Feb. 25, 1942. He was sent to Tuskegee, Ala., to help make up the 332nd Fighter Group. He served in Italy during World War II. He was with the 332nd Fighter Wing when segregation ended in the Air Force.
Watson retired after 26 years of service from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey as an aircraft and missile electrician.
He served overseas in Italy, Germany, Turkey and Iran. He founded an American Legion Chapter named after Captain Robert B. Tresville in Lakewood after he returned from overseas in World War II.
Watson served as a recruiter for the Army and Air Force in Trenton, Lakewood and Asbury Park, N.J., from 1951 through 1955.
After military service, Watson spent 15 years with the New Jersey Bell Telephone Company as a frame man and telephone installer.
Watson is the author of two books, “Memorable Memoirs,” which is a story about his life before and during World War II, and “A Salute to the Beginning.”
Watson received numerous military awards including the Purple Heart, Honorary Three Star General awarded by Gen. Rick Martin, USAF, World War II Victory Medal and Air Force Commendation Medal.
He and other Tuskegee Airmen received the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor on March 29, 2007 in Washington, D.C.
Watson was also the recipient of various civic awards such as the NAACP Lifetime Award, National Tuskegee Airmen — Lifetime Award and Community Service Award for Outstanding Contributions to the African American Community from the Garden State Arts Center of New Jersey.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Louise. They were married for 71 years before her death in 2014.
He is survived by: his daughter, Tina A. Watson; son, Maurice A. Watson; sisters-in-law, Alice Watson of Sacramento, Calif., and Bettye Upshaw of Detroit; daughter-in-law, Cheryl A. Watson; grandsons, George B. Watson III and Mark B. Watson; granddaughter, Kayla S. Watson; niece, Bernita Johnson; nephews, William Watson Jr., Roger Ray, Carl Ray and Michael Ray; and other relatives and friends.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made in his name to the Honorable Hannibal Cox Tuition Assistance Fund, c/o Sharon Hunter, 1 Durham Way, East Windsor, N.J.
Services were held July 1 at Calvary Lighthouse Church, 1133 E. County Line Rd., Lakewood, N.J. Burial is in Greenwood Cemetery.
Greenidge Funeral Home handled the arrangements.