Alfred Thomas Farrar, a former Tuskegee airman, died on Thursday.
Farrar’s son, Roy, confirmed his father’s passing to The Associated Press on Sunday. He reportedly died in his Lynchburg, Virginia, home. A cause of death has not been announced.
The death came nine days shy of Farrar’s 100th birthday and eight days before he was supposed to be honored by the Lynchburg Area Veterans Council for his service.
“In spite of tremendous discrimination, these young American men and women served their nation with distinction and opened the door of opportunity for many other Americans,” the Lynchburg Area Veterans Council said.
After graduating from high school, Farrar left Lynchburg to learn how to fly in 1941. He landed in Tuskegee, Alabama, where he studied aviation at the then Tuskegee Institute.
“It was the next best thing to do,” Alfred told The News & Advance, referring to his decision to enlist.
The military was still segregated at the time so Farrar joined the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-Black combat pilot unit based in the American Air Corps. The unit was famous for its piloting and mechanic skills, which contributed to the American World War II effort, according to The News & Advance.
Although he never flew an overseas mission, Farrar was able to rise to the rank of staff sergeant before he was discharged in 1943. After his military service, he went on to study aerospace engineering and established a home in New York. He worked at the Federal Aviation Administration for more than 40 years.
Roy Farrar, his son, told The News & Advance his father would study for his aerospace engineer designation from “stacks of brown folders. He would work relentlessly each night,” he added.
The veterans council will still honor Farrar’s service on Christmas Day. Roy Farrar told NBC News a group of planes will fly over a memorial scheduled on his dad’s birthday.