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Civil rights pioneer Marlon Green to be enshrined in Colorado aviation hall of fame

Author: Joey Bunch - September 3, 2017 - Updated: September 3, 2017

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Marlon D. Green 737In 2010 Continental Airlines named a 737 aircraft for its first African-American pilot. (Photo courtesy of Continental Airlines)

Fans of the state’s history in flight can pay tribute to a pilot from Denver pilot who broke racial barriers, the late Marlon Green, at a banquet next month.

Green won a landmark Supreme Court case that allowed African-Americans to be airline pilots. He died in 2009 at age 80. The Colorado Aviation Historical Society will posthumously induct Green into its hall of fame Oct. 14 at Lakewood Country Club.

The society will also present a special award to a group of Coloradans who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Air Force during World War II. The organization will also recognize its Wright Brothers 50-year Master Pilots.

An Air Force veteran who lived in Denver, Green sued Continental Airlines in 1957. The airline invited him to take its flight test after he failed to note his race on the application. After he passed, the airline refused to hire him, while taking white Air Force pilots with less experience.

With the support of then-U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Green fought his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he won a unanimous decision, in 1963.

He was still kept from becoming the nation’s first black commercial airline pilot, however. Instead, American Airlines hired David Harris, in 1964, a few months before Green was hired by Continental in 1965, eight years after he first applied. He flew for Continental Airlines until 1978.

In 2007, The Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum called Green the “Jackie Robinson of Aviation.” In 2009 author Flint Whitlock published the book “Turbulence Before Takeoff: The Life & Times of Aviation Pioner Marlon Dewitt Green.”

In 2010, Continental Airlines named a 737 in Green’s honor.

Tickets are $45 each for the event from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. that Saturday. Those who would like to attend should contact banquet chairman Dave Kempa at 303-521-6761 or dave@airdenver.com.

Colorado’s rich history in flight is reflected in its museums, as well as military installations and private employers. Aviation in today supports 265,000 jobs, according to a 2015 report by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.

In its last session, the legislature exempted sales taxes on historical aircraft used in public displays at least 20 hours a week, partly as a tribute and partly to encourage public education and the preservation of history.

House Bill 1103 was sponsored by Reps. Dan Nordberg, R-Col0rado Springs, and Dan Pabon, D-Denver, with Sens. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, and Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City.

The bill notes that The Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum is located in the Lowry neighborhood of Denver has more than 50 historical aircraft on display, about half of which are on local from private owners

Legislative analysts also cited historical aircraft at the National Museum of World War II Aviation in Colorado Springs and the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.


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