Reneé Coates said her father, Cicero Satterfield, always told her the sky is the limit — and as a Tuskegee Airman, the 93-year-old knows a lot about the skies.
Satterfield was born May 8, 1919, and grew up on a farm in Kosciusko, Miss.
When he was 20, he joined the military and was sent to Tuskegee, Ala., to serve with the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military aviators in the country during WWII. Satterfield said his job was to maintain the planes that the pilots practiced on, including the Primary Trainer, the Advanced Trainer and the P-40 airplanes.
Although Americans have begun honoring the Tuskegee Airmen for their service in recent years, Satterfield said he faced a great deal of racism, both in and out of the service.
“Some people didn’t want us in the Air Force,” he said.
After serving in the military for about three-and-a-half years, Satterfield was honorably discharged for medical reasons in 1945. Three years later, former President Harry S. Truman completely integrated the U.S. armed forces.
Satterfield said he tried to get a job as a math teacher in Mississippi when he left the military, but was denied teaching jobs because of his race.
After taking a test at a local post office, Satterfield obtained an accounting position for the government in Washington, D.C., and moved to Takoma Park in 1953. He lives in the same home he moved into with his wife, Freda, in 1965.
Satterfield is still active in the community. He attends meetings of the Tuskegee Airmen on the first Saturday of every month in College Park.
“We’re just really thankful now that after all these years, he’s alive to really see the recognition and enjoy ... participating in a lot of the events that they are being acknowledged for,” Coates, of Olney, said.
Satterfield has been invited to the White House by both former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama for his involvement as a Tuskegee Airman. He said he was also at both of Obama’s inaugurations.
“I just enjoyed seeing him,” Satterfield said. “He was the first one of us elected president of the United States. He’s the only one who has been president of the United States.”
Coates said her father has traveled near and far — including Alabama and California — for events honoring Tuskegee Airmen, such as parades and memorial dedications.
“What they did in WWII — no one thought that these men could do that,” Coates said.
These days, he said, he spends a lot of time with his 14 children and 92 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He also enjoys traveling and socializing at the Easter Seals Adult Day Services Center in Silver Spring twice a week.
Center Director Reuben Rosenfeld said the center has been open for more than three years and serves more than 50 clients. The facility also has an intergenerational component to keep seniors active, he said.
Rosenfeld said that at 93 years old, Satterfield is “full of life.”