Tuskegee airman wins Medal of 1777


Outstanding citizenship, true patriotism and exceptional service in the community have earned the executive director of the Rome Sports Hall of Fame the honor of being added to the Rome Historical Society’s Medal of 1777 plaque.

Recipient Herbert C. Thorpe will be presented with the honor at the annual meeting on Tuesday. The Rome Area Chamber of Commerce will also be celebrated as they receive the "History Makers award 2012" in recognition of the organization celebrating 100 years of serving the community.

The award presentation is set to take place at the Annual Meeting at The Beeches Conference Center on Turin Road at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The community is invited to attend. For tickets, contact the historical society, 200 Church St., or call 336-5870. Ticket prices are $40 per person.

Rome Historical Society Executive Director Robert Avery said the gold medal, certificate and citation are selectively awarded to people who have conducted the highest charter purposes of the society and the "ever reliant" qualities of the true patriot.

"Such persons are worthy in their own ways as the conquered defender of Fort Stanwix were in their circumstances," Avery said. "The names and citations of medal holders shall always be preserved in the archives of this society."

Thorpe is a native of Brooklyn who enlisted in the Army Reserves in October 1942, and underwent training at Tuskegee Army Air Field Flight School at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. After more training at gunnery school and bombardier/navigator school, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and later returned to Tuskegee and began advanced flight training. He earned B-25 Pilot’s Wings in October 1945 at Tuskegee, and was one of the heralded "Tuskegee Airmen," the first black pilots in U.S. history.

After the war, Thorpe attended New York University and eventually came to Rome in 1959 and worked as a radar research engineer with the Rome Air Development Center at Griffiss Air Force Base. He retired in 1982, and later served as part-time counselor at Mohawk Valley Community College. He’s a member and past-president of the Rome Branch NAACP, and also is a member of Prince Hall Military Lodge No. 112, Afro-American Heritage Association, Mohawk Valley Frontiers Club and is on the advisory board of the Oneida County Office for the Aging.