This photography shows Richard Hall, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, standing proudly with his plane which was called “Sug’s Dopey.”
-- You'd expect Jack Hall's take on the hit George Lucas movie "Red Tails" to go a little deeper than most casual movie buffs'
One of the Tuskegee Airmen who inspired the movie, after all, was Hall's hero and older brother Richard.
"The movie was pretty good overall, but I wish they would have gone a little deeper into how and why (the Airmen) were started, the 'experiment' that brought that group together," Hall, a retired educator, said after watching "Red Tails" at the local Carmike Winnsong 16 Cinema. "I'm sure they focused on the combat because of all the action, and that makes sense.
"But when you consider that the Army had said that blacks did not have the mental capacity to operate sophisticated equipment, you get a better idea of how significant (the Tuskegee Airmen's) contribution was."
Jack Hall speaks wistfully of the Airmen and their place in history. After Richard signed on for the Department of Defense's "experiment" at the historically black Alabama college and became part of the 100th Squadron's "second wave" to take to the skies over Europe, Jack wanted desperately to follow in his older brother's footsteps.
"I wanted to do everything he did; Richard was my hero," Jack Hall said. "I signed up and was on the waiting list for Tuskegee when the war ended and they disbanded the program.
"One of the greatest moments of my life, though, was when Richard took me up in his plane on one of his instructional flights. I got to wear a flight suit and everything."
The Hall family came to Albany in 1911 when Annie Mae Hall was selected as one of five Tuskegee-trained African-American nurses to work at the newly opened Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. Like his older brother Henry, Richard Hall decided to join the Army with the outbreak of World War II. A student at Hampton University and a trained pilot, Richard decided to join the Army Air Corps when the government announced it was proceeding with an experiment to train black pilots at four historically black colleges.
"They sent Richard to Tuskegee, and he became a part of the second wave of pilots to go to Europe," Jack Hall said of his brother. "He was based at Ramatelli (Airfield) in Italy, which is where the group featured in 'Red Tails' was based.
"He later told us his squadran was involved in strafing and blowing up (enemy supply) trucks in their old P-40s at first, but when they got the newer model P-51s they were assigned to fly as escorts for American bombers. He did register one kill, a German ME-109."
Richard Hall was commissioned to return to Tuskegee to train pilots after his active duty ended, but his heroic career ended in tragedy when, on a return flight from New York, his plane crashed a mile from the runway of the Atlanta airport.
"When the war ended and I lost my opportunity to train at Tuskegee, I enlisted in the Army and served as part of the Occupation Forces," Jack Hall said. "When I came home I still had the desire to fly as my brother had. I went to the airfield in Albany to join the Aero Club, and I was told 'There are no n-----s allowed in this organization.'
"That was really heartbreaking to me. My brother, who was a war hero, went through similar mistreatment at a train depot in Baltimore. I couldn't believe the country we'd fought to protect would treat us that way."
With renewed interest in the Tuskegee Airmen spurred by "Red Tails," Jack Hall said he is proud to inform unsuspecting Albany citizens that they were well-represented among members of the Tuskegee Airmen. In addition to Richard Hall, others from Albany who flew the famed Red Tails included Joseph Blaylock, Willie Shepherd Hunter and Arthur Gibson.
"Those were folks I knew, folks who lived right in our neighborhood," Jack Hall said. "Arthur Gibson is listed as being from Chicago, and he did move there. But I grew up with him in Albany.
"These guys were part of a very important part of American history. Their involvement in the war was as much a social thing as it was military, but my brother and the other pilots didn't see it that way. They didn't join up to change society. They went in to serve their country and to fulfill their dreams of adventure."
The adventurous spirit that took Richard Hall, known to his flyboy buddies as "Sug's Dopey" -- a nod to his then-girlfriend and one of Snow White's seven dwarves -- into the skies of Europe has apparently been reborn in his great-grandson.
Stefan Winkfield recently retired his captain's commission in the U.S. Marine Corps to pursue his own dream of flying.
"(Winkfield) had a dream just like his great-grandfather," Wilhelmina Hall, Jack Hall's wife and a retired educator, said of their nephew. "There's no doubt he could have gone on to a great career in the Marine Corps, but that was not his dream. His dream, just like Richard's, was to fly."
That's the kind of dream heroes are made of.