With ambitions as huge as the Himalayas, it’s perhaps no coincidence that this was the mountain range over which Air Force Sergeant Ernest Haywood flew supplies during World War II.

It’s also his experiences in India, where he was stationed between 1941 and 1949 that set him on his other life’s work: championing the human condition. 

A native of Memphis, the eighty-nine year old Haywood trained as a pilot in the legendary Tuskegee Institute in central Alabama, a role he claims, he did not particularly want.  “I’d never flown before, and didn’t have much interest in combat.”

Thus, when he was terminated, not for performance, but because another trainee shared his name and the Army wanted to avoid confusion.  The high regard in which his flying ability was held may be measured by the Congressional Medal of Honor he received for his time with the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, even though he did not fly a single mission with them.

In point of fact, Haywood was just as happy to be assigned to C-46 supply missions in India.  In that country, he converted to Catholicism and is the author of Martin, a well-respected book on St. Martin DePorres, the son of a slave who was beatified in 1837 by Pope Gregory XVI and canonized in 1962 by Pope John XXIII.

Back in the United States, he took on a somewhat prosaic job at Great Lakes Insurance, and meanwhile, joined the Civil Rights movement, which was anything but prosaic!  He had the great fortune to work alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the president of the Dallas branch of the NAACP, and was, in fact, with Dr. King shortly before his assassination.

Having retired from Prudential Insurance, Haywood now resides in the comfortable American House in Southfield, where his leadership skills have propelled him to the presidency of the Resident Council.  Family remains a key focus of his life, as well as a general outlook of joy at the advancements made by African Americans and other minorities in today’s society.  “It’s getting to be how we imagined life would be fifty years ago, especially with an African American in the White House.”

“I am,” he asserts, “quite proud of the progress we’ve made as a people, and especially, that I had a role to play in it.”



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