87R8709 JGH-D
  By: Ellzey H.R. No. 185
         WHEREAS, Texas has been home to many stellar aviation
  pioneers through the years, but few stars burned as brightly as that
  of the legendary aviator Bessie Coleman; and
         WHEREAS, One of 13 children in a family of sharecroppers,
  Bessie Coleman was born in Atlanta, Texas, on January 26, 1892, and
  grew up in Waxahachie; despite the hardship of working in the cotton
  fields, she received an eighth-grade education in a one-room school
  and became an avid reader; her imagination was especially fired by
  reading the story of Harriet Quimby, the first American woman to
  earn a pilot's license and the first woman to fly solo across the
  English Channel; and
         WHEREAS, Ms. Coleman enrolled in the Colored Agricultural
  and Normal University in Langston, Oklahoma, in 1910, but she was
  forced to drop out after one term due to a lack of funds; she settled
  in Chicago in 1915 and found work as a manicurist on the South Side;
  when one of her brothers returned from Europe after World War I and
  regaled her with stories about female pilots in France, she became
  even more determined to learn to fly; and
         WHEREAS, With the support of Robert Abbott, an African
  American newspaper publisher, she applied to aviation schools
  across the United States but was denied admission because of her
  race and gender; undeterred, she learned French and moved to Paris
  in 1919, where she enrolled in flight school and became part of the
  Black American expatriate scene, making friends with such
  luminaries as the dancer Josephine Baker; in 1921, she became the
  first African American woman to become a licensed aviator when she
  received her international pilot's license from the Fédération
  Aéronautique Internationale; and
         WHEREAS, Returning to the United States, Ms. Coleman was once
  again denied work as a pilot because she was a Black woman, so she
  became a barnstormer, one of the daring, itinerant aviators who
  traveled from town to town across the nation, performing
  spectacular aerial stunts at air shows that drew as many as 30,000
  spectators; she also gave lectures and established a beauty shop in
  Orlando, Florida, in order to raise money to open her own aviation
  school to train Black pilots, and as she traveled the country, she
  refused to perform unless the air show audiences were desegregated,
  with everyone entering by the same gates; and
         WHEREAS, Ms. Coleman eventually purchased her own aircraft,
  a Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny," and she was testing it with her mechanic in
  Jacksonville, Florida, on April 30, 1926, when the plane
  malfunctioned and she fell to her death; her funeral in Chicago was
  attended by 15,000 people, with a eulogy by the civil rights
  activist Ida B. Wells; and
         WHEREAS, In 1929, William J. Powell founded the Bessie
  Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles, a flight school that trained some
  of the pilots who went on to serve with the Tuskegee Airmen during
  World War II, and in 1931, the Challenger Air Pilots Association of
  Chicago began an annual flight over the cemetery where she was
  buried; women aviators in Chicago established the Bessie Coleman
  Aviators Club in 1977, and in 1995, the U.S. Postal Service issued a
  stamp in her honor; she was inducted into the National Aviation Hall
  of Fame in 2006; and
         WHEREAS, At a time when the aspirations of Black women were
  impeded by racism and sexism, Bessie Coleman fulfilled her ambition
  to become a pilot through courage and fierce determination, and she
  helped inspire generations of women and African Americans, in the
  Lone Star State and across the nation, to dream of taking to the
  skies; now, therefore, be it
         RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 87th Texas
  Legislature hereby pay tribute to the legacy of pioneering aviator
  Bessie Coleman.