US Army Air Force, Medic – Airman First Class
Korean War (1952-1953)
Past National President of the Tuskegee Airmen and the William “Bill” Campbell Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen in the Bay Area
The United States of the 1950′s was filled with unrest. Racial tension, especially in the south, threatened the current peace present in the US, while the country found itself drawn into another war in defense of South Korea. It was during this turbulent time that Ron Lucas chose to fight for his country as an aero-medic in the Korean War.
Ron Lucas was born on May 29, 1932 in Montclair, New Jersey, but was raised in Washington DC by his mother, who worked for the government. Growing up as an African American in a segregated society, Lucas remembered having to adhere to strict social rules. Though clearly unjust, these stringent rules did prepare Lucas for the army, where discipline was crucial.
Lucas spent seventh and eighth grade at Saint Joseph’s Industrial School in Clayton, Delaware and ninth grade through high school at St. Emma Military Academy in Rock Castle, Virginia. After high school Lucas was offered several scholarships, but ultimately turned them down due to a lack of job availability for African Americans in the field of Biochemistry. Instead, after graduating from high school in 1950, Lucas began working as a mail messenger for the US Naval Hydrographic Office.
After some time, Lucas decided that he needed to fulfill his potential to help people, and, after being drafted into the Marine Corps, chose to enlist in the Air Force in 1952, becoming a medic. This branch of the military involved evacuating hurt soldiers to other bases in and outside of Korea. A dangerous job, medics would often get injured in attempting to get aid to wounded soldiers. Lucas also worked in the Flight Sergeant’s Office, both at the front desk and in the treatment room.
Lucas later came back to the States and began working as a Physiological Training Instructor. As such, his duties involved overseeing the altitude chamber, night-vision training, and ejection seat training. During this time, Lucas was living at the Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia. He remembered the living situation to be acceptable, with one exception: he lived in a room with about 20-30 other men. For entertainment, he would play baseball or go bowling. Lucas loved jazz music and described himself as “somewhat of a Duke Ellington.”
When asked if he believed if his sacrifice in the war was justified, Lucas replied that in a time of war, it is every man and woman’s duty to do something to help their country. A strong advocate of joining the military, Lucas’ advice to men and women considering enlisting in the armed forces was simple: do it. Lucas also had some wisdom for future generations. As someone who had chosen not to go to college, but who had still been successful in life, he encouraged young people to believe in themselves and to show the world what they have to offer. He also hoped that they would appreciate humor as much as he did. In Lucas’ words, “I like people and I like humor. If you can’t laugh, forget it.”
On March 1, 1956, Lucas was discharged from the Air Force and in December of that year married his wife, Lois. He also began working once again at the US Naval Hydrographic Office. Though he did enjoy his time spent in the office, and the people with which he spent it, he later decided to become an encyclopedia salesman. He was so successful in the business that he was promoted to Senior District Manager, a position created for him and other African Americans [only African Americans] to show their status as managers. At one point Lucas was offered the position of Working Protocol Officer of the US, but after a series of events took place the position was made unavailable. He did, however, get a position in the US Department of Interior and later the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and subsequently moved to Terra Linda, where he resides today.
Interview by Valerie Cherbero on June 16, 2011.