BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College is mourning the death of Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, one of the last surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen and a 2020 honorary degree recipient.

McGee, of Bethesda, Md., died Sunday at age 102.

In 1942, McGee left his engineering studies at the University of Illinois and joined a segregated U.S. Army in 1942.

He became one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, and the first all-Black unit to train skilled aviators. He also served in Korea and Vietnam.

Bethany College recognized McGee’s military and community contributions in October 2020 by presenting an honorary doctorate in public service. Dr. Joe Lane, provost and dean of faculty, presented the degree.

“General McGee was an inspiring person, and we are so thankful that Bethany College was able to honor him and include him in our circle of alumni,” Lane said. “Even via Zoom, his wit, wisdom, and incredible experiences shone through, and we are so grateful for the time he took to share his life with our community. He will be dearly missed, and our thoughts are with his family at this time of mourning, but also of celebration.”

Bethany College Trustee the Rev. Dr. Arthur Keys ’67, recommended McGee for the accolade.

At the time, McGee called the honor a blessing from God.

“Certainly to receive this honor is beyond expectation,” he said. “It is also, I hope, a chance for those coming behind to see that life can be rewarding. … The key to me is, again, a God-given life to be an example for the young people who are the country’s future, not only in our family but in our community and our service.”

During World War II, McGee conducted combat missions in Italy, Romania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Bulgaria, Austria, and Germany.

In the Korean War, McGee served with the 44th Fighter Bomber Squadron, and he led the 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron from Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base in Vietnam.

During his career, McGee flew more than 400 combat missions and retired in 1973 with the rank of Colonel. He was presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Air Medal, and the Presidential Unit Citation.

In 1978, he completed his collegiate studies with a business degree from Columbia College in Missouri.

He joined all of the Tuskegee Airmen in 2007 in receiving the United States’ highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal. The National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio, inducted McGee in 2011.

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump promoted McGee to the rank of Brigadier General in the Oval Office of the White House. Congress authorized the promotion in 2019.

McGee was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on Dec. 7, 1919.

He and his wife, Frances Nelson McGee, married in 1942. They had three children. Frances McGee died in 1994.

McGee was a longtime member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). For 30 years, he was a member of North Chevy Chase Christian Church in Chevy Chase, Md., where he sang in the choir and was an elder emeritus.

Alexander Campbell founded Bethany College in 1840 as the first college affiliated with the Disciples of Christ.


Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.