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Tuskegee airman draws fans at Obama inauguration

January 19, 2009 |  8:30 pm

Robert Searcy, one of the Tuskegee Airmen profiled in The Times on Sunday, arrived in Washington this evening and immediately set out to visit the National Mall, with stops at the White House, the Washington Monument and World War II Memorial.

Searcy is one of about 330 surviving members of the storied all-black unit from World War II. He and another airman from Los Angeles,  Roger "Bill" Terry, shared their memories as they prepared to visit the inauguration at the invitation of Barack Obama.

Earlier today, Searcy attended a prayer breakfast in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. in Hattiesburg, Miss., where he was signing autographs, giving interviews with the local paper and posing for photos. Then it was on to Washington, where Searcy has been telling people, "I'm a Tuskegee Airman. I came from L.A. for this."

Unfazed by the cold in Washington, he returned to his hotel, where he was greeted by strangers who stopped him to pose for yet more photographs. "It's opened things up," he said of Obama's election. "Everything's changed. Look at what's out there on the streets -- it's evident. People are emancipated. That's what it's all about: restoring faith in the future, restoring faith and hope."

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

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