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Spanky Roberts


Aviator George Spencer ‘‘Spanky’’ Roberts (September 24, 1918-March 8, 1984) was the first African-American military pilot from West Virginia and a member of the famous Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. He was born in London, Kanawha County, the son of Spencer and Estella Roberts. He graduated from Fairmont’s Dunbar High School in 1934 and from West Virginia State College (now University) in 1938, with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical arts.

After receiving his pilot’s license in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, Roberts entered aviation cadet training with the first class of Tuskegee Airmen, who trained at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He completed his training on March 7, 1942, and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant. He entered combat in North Africa in May 1943, eventually flying more than 100 missions against the enemy in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

Following the war Roberts became the senior Air Corps ROTC instructor at Tuskegee Institute. He also served in Korea and Okinawa. In 1963, Roberts was assigned to Griffiss Air Force Base where he was responsible for all ground radar in the Air Force. During the Vietnam War he served as deputy for logistics for fighters in Vietnam. Roberts retired with the rank of colonel at McClellan Air Force Base in 1968. His decorations included the Air Force Commendation Medal with four oak clusters and two presidential citations. He died in Sacramento, California.

Written by L. Wayne Sheets


  1. Bickley, Ancella R. Dubie, Spanky, and Mr. Death: West Virginia's Pioneering Black Airmen. Goldenseal, (Summer 1997).

  2. George S. Roberts Papers. Drain-Jordan Library, West Virginia State University, Institute.