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NEWS | Nov. 17, 2021

New Jersey school named for Tuskegee Airman on Veterans Day

By Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris 99th Readiness Division

The Park Middle School here was named for Tuskegee Airman Malcolm E. Nettingham during a ceremony held Nov. 11 in the school auditorium.

“This is a great honor to rename the school that represents the legacy of Malcolm E. Nettingham and the Tuskegee Airmen,” said Nettingham’s son, Malcolm V. Nettingham.

Nettingham served with the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and died in 2020 just weeks short of his 102nd birthday. In 2007, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his military service.

“Our Flag was not weaved of a single color, and if you look around the room, you will see that neither are we,” said Maj. Gen. Rodney Faulk, commanding general of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 99th Readiness Division. “The Army finds its strength not only in its diversity, but in its ability to weave together people of different faiths, cultures and races.

“Our Army has come a long way in the struggle for equality, and we owe many successes today to African-American service members of the past, like Mr. Nettingham, who continued to step forward to willingly serve their country even when their country wasn’t willing to defend their rights,” Faulk added.

Nettingham was a pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of mostly African-American service members brought together at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, for a test conducted by the U.S. Army Air Corps to determine if African-Americans had the mental and physical abilities to lead, fly military aircraft, and succeed in warfare.

“(This test) demonstrated conclusively that African-Americans -- if given equal opportunities and training -- could fly in, command and support combat units as well as anyone,” said Faulk. These men…served with distinction and contributed to the eventual integration of the U.S. armed services.

“Mr. Nettingham was one of these trailblazing men,” Faulk continued. “He was one member of a five-man crew of African-American Soldiers chosen as part of the first integrated flight radio communications class in the U.S. Army Air Corps, overcoming discrimination and prejudice to prove the doubters wrong.”

Nettingham was born in New York City in 1918. At age five, he moved to Scotch Plains. After graduating from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School in 1936, he received his Electronic Technician Certification from Jersey City Technical Institute before enlisting in the military.

“We value the patriotism Mr. Nettingham demonstrated when he enlisted to serve; we value his determination to perform at the highest level, knowing that he was representing his race; we value the quiet humility of this gentle, gentle man; and we value the man who grew to earn the Congressional Gold medal for his part in moving us toward a more perfect union,” said Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr.

Nettingham and his wife of 72 years, Lorena, are survived by their two children, five grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

“The decision to rename this school after Malcolm E. Nettingham was easy because it is altogether the right thing to do,” said Scotch Plains Mayor Joshua Losardo. “It is incumbent upon us to honor Americans who selflessly and courageously fought for our country while breaking barriers along the way.”