For day 10 of our Women’s History Month celebration, we recognize: Willa Beatrice Brown!
Willa Beatrice Brown was the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license and commercial license in the United States. She was also the first African American woman to become an officer in the Illinois Civil Air Patrol. Brown, a member of the Challenger Air Pilots Association, earned her Master Mechanic Certificate in 1935, and began instructing flight and ground school at Harlem Field, where she initially learned to fly. Brown also served as the director of the Coffey School of Aeronautics, founded by her husband Cornelius Coffey, where she also held the ranks of lieutenant and adjutant. She served as the director when the school was chosen by the Civil Aeronautics Administration to host the Civilian Pilot Training Program, which trained thousands of pilots in the United States. Brown’s role at the Coffey School led to countless African Americans earning their pilot’s licenses, and many earning admissions into the Army Air Forces through the War Training Service Program.