Eugene Bullard's story is so incredible that it reads like fiction. The son of a former slave, he ran away from his Columbus home as a child, fleeing the Jim Crow South in the early 20th century after his beloved father was nearly lynched. He stowed away on a boat for Europe, boxed professionally, drummed in a jazz band in Paris, rubbed elbows with Louis Armstrong and fought for the French Foreign Legion in World War I.
Awarded France's Croix de Guerre for his heroism at the Battle of Verdun, Bullard next joined France's air service, becoming the world's first African American fighter pilot and earning the nickname "The Black Swallow of Death." The segregated U.S. military wouldn't accept him as a pilot because of his race during WWI. He spied for the French Resistance and narrowly escaped the Nazi invasion of Paris, eventually returning to the U.S., settling in New York and living his remaining years largely in obscurity.
Georgia’s WWI Centennial Commission raised private donations for the monument, placing it just outside the Museum of Aviation, where Bullard is honored in the Aviation Hall of Fame. The statue depicts Bullard in his military uniform. His arms are crossed. And he is looking skyward.