Descendants work to preserve memory of Tuskegee Airmen member buried in Winston-Salem cemetery

Piedmont Triad News

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — The descendants of Odd Fellows Cemetery in Winston-Salem have worked for decades to try to preserve the private piece of land.

Volunteers discovered the grave of a notable person in U.S. History. His name is Lieutenant Spurgeon Neal Ellington.

“He was raised up in North Carolina in Winston-Salem. He went to Atkins High School,” said cemetery President James Clyburn.

His name might ring a bell to people who know a little about the Tuskegee Airmen.

“He helped fly big bombers into Germany and bring them back. That’s why he was well-known,” Clyburn said.

Tuskegee Airmen were a group of predominantly Black air fighters in the U.S. Military during World War II.

“He became a Red Tail as they call them,” Clyburn said.

More episodes of Forgotten Souls of Black Cemeteries:
Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6

Ellington was praised for his flying talents—earning an air medal and the nation’s third highest valor medal: the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Those who knew him describing him as, “one of the most unforgettable characters I have ever met…He was not only proud of being a pilot , but proud in general,” author Charles E. Francis noted in his memoir, “The Tuskegee Airmen: The Men Who changed a Nation.”

Ellington was buried at the cemetery in 1945. He and another pilot were participating in flight training in Georgia when their plane went down, killing them both.

“They brought him back on the train and buried him in the Odd Fellow’s Cemetery,” Clyburn explained.

Ellington was only 26 years old.

But in order to keep his young spirit alive, stories like his must be told. And having access to his grave by maintaining this area is what helps tell them.

On Friday, FOX8 picks back up with this series in Lewisville where a descendant of former slaves explains how her ancestors who are buried in Double Springs Garden of Memory became free.

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