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USAF Thunderbirds to participate in highway dedication for Captain Pete Peterson

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform the "Diamond pass and review" at Travis AFB, California on July 30, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt Richard Rose Jr.)

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

The famous United States Air Force Thunderbirds will be conducting a flyover at a dedication ceremony for a portion of a highway in Tuskegee and Macon County that will be named in honor of Captain Joseph “Pete” Peterson, the second African-American to fly in the elite group.

Pete Peterson

The event will be Thursday at 1 p.m. at the intersection of State Road 199 and State Road 81.

State Road 199 will be renamed as Captain Joseph “Pete” Peterson Memorial Boulevard and new signage will be dedicated at the ceremony Thursday.

Peterson died in 1982 at 32 years old when he was killed during a pre-season training on January 18. The Thunderbirds are known for their stunning air acrobatics, flying their jets as close as 36 inches apart at speeds up to 500 mph.

Peterson, who attended Tuskegee Institute High School but later transferred to Tuskegee Public School as a senior, and was on the school’s football team with their athletics programs were integrated in the late 1960s.

He later took lessons from C. Alfred Anderson, a Tuskegee Airman, who is known as the father of black aviation. With Anderson’s mentorship, Peterson gained his private pilot’s license.

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He later attended and graduated from Auburn University, earning a bachelor’s degree in marketing while participating in Air Force ROTC before he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force in 1971.

General Lloyd W. Newton, the first African American pilot to fly with the Thunderbirds, will speak at the event later this month. His family will also be at the event.

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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