In these final days of 2015, we pause to look back at 15 who influenced Little Rock’s cultural scene who left us in 2015.
Milton Pitts Crenchaw, was one of the first in the country to be trained by the federal government as a civilian licensed pilot. While an instructor at the Tuskegee Institute, he trained hundreds of cadet pilots and started the aviation program at Philander Smith College.
Crenchaw graduated from Dunbar High School and attended Dunbar Junior College before enrolling at the Tuskegee Institute in 1939. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, his focus shifted from living the life of a normal college student to flying in the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP), sponsored by the Army Air Corps, and becoming a flight instructor.
Early in his career, Crenchaw worked as a civilian pilot training officer contracted by the military. Crenshaw instructed scores of pilots and cadets, including Judge Robert Decatur, Charles Flowers, Lieutenant Colonel Charles (Chuck) Dryden, Earl V. Stallcups, and fellow Arkansan Woodrow Crockett. Crenchaw returned to Little Rock and taught aviation at Philander Smith from 1947 to 1953. He was also employed by the Central Flying Service and worked as a crop-duster in the central Arkansas and Delta regions.
Then he served as a flight instructor at several airbases from 1953 until 1972. In 1972, with over 10,000 hours on record logged in the air, Crenchaw was signed on as an equal employment opportunity officer with the Department of Defense and as a race relations officer at Fort Stewart in Georgia until 1983.
Crenchaw was inducted into the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame in 1998. Nine years later, he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. He was also honored by Governor Mike Beebe in 2007 and the City of Little Rock in 2012. On March 29, 2007, Crenchaw, along with the other members of the Tuskegee Airmen, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush in Washington DC.