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DOTA History

The Tuskegee Airmen Who Inspire Us - Lt. Col. Enoch Woodhouse

The first time I spoke with Lt. Col. Enoch Woodhouse Jr., a Documented Original Tuskegee Airman (DOTA) and former trial lawyer, he immediately recalled a defining moment in his life. It was one that altered his perspective of the world, and instilled in him a sense of drive that would enable him to confidently engage a Sisyphean nature and, ultimately, to overcome some impossible odds.

On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, killing 2,403 U. S. personnel and destroying 19 U. S. Navy ships, including eight battleships. Even though, at the time, Woodhouse was still a young child, he vividly remembers the very moment his mother heard the news of the attack.

For Woodhouse, this moment would forever be captured in time, for it inspired a mother of two to say to her beloved sons, "Our country is at war, and I want you boys to serve our country." That is exactly what Woodhouse would go on to do, despite the fact that his country still harbored a sub-human perspective regarding African Americans.

At the time, segregation was in wide practice, as was a complacency regarding the many hate crimes and violent acts committed against African Americans, which tragically would go unpunished. Woodhouse would go on to meet surreal resistance from those who valued their own hatred, and the views they held to be more important than their country's needs.

The Lieutenant Colonel recounted an instance when he was traveling to St. Louis on the train. A conductor tapped him on the shoulder and told him to get off the train, even though Woodhouse was in full military uniform. The conductor insisted that "his type don't ride the train," and that he would have to exit immediately to wait for the next train, which turned out to be a string of cattle cars that arrived nearly 10 hours later.

Woodhouse said that this was the most embarrassing moment of his life. To add insult to injury, he was reporting for duty, and was charged with being AWOL—absent without leave—for not reporting on time, an infraction for which he was punished.

Despite all the blatant oppression and abuse he would experience, Woodhouse refused to develop a perspective based on racially biased clichés and simple generalizations, although this would have been the path of least resistance and arguably justifiable. Woodhouse realized that this viewpoint would only be destructive to his overall growth and development.  

Instead, Woodhouse elected to maintain neuroplasticity through perceiving a simple axiomatic truth, that is man's agathokakological nature. This perspective enabled Lieutenant Colonel Woodhouse to enjoy a very successful military career as a paymaster. Eventually graduating from Yale, he would work as a trial lawyer for the next 40 years. His was a true demonstration of excellence by any standard.

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