#Eugene Jacques Bullard was the world’s first #black combat aviator, who flew in the French squadrons during World War I (1917-1918). Bullard was born into #slavery in Columbus, Georgia on October 9, 1894. He was one of ten children of William O. Bullard (Big Chief Ox), and his wife Josephine Thomas, a Creek Indian. Bullard attended Twenty-eight Street School in Georgia as a child, where he learned to read and write.
Bullard saw his father almost lynched and because of that he decided to runaway. When he was a teenager he stowed away on a ship that was bound for Scotland to escape racial discrimination. He later became a boxer in Paris and worked in a music hall. At the beginning of World War I, Bullard joined the French army, serving in the Moroccan Division of the 170th Infantry Regiment. The French government awarded him the Croix de Guerre for his bravery at the Battle of Verdun. Twice wounded and declared unfit for infantry service, he requested assignment to flight training. He amassed a distinguished record in the air, flying twenty missions and downing at least one German plane.
Bullard was also a business man who owned and managed nightclubs in the Montmartre section of Paris. During his management he met several influential figures such as: Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet, and Louis Armstrong. Later in 1923 he married Marcelle Straumann and they had two daughters before separating in 1931. In 1940 Bullard and his daughters escaped to New York City, to get away from his job as a French government counterintelligence network spying on Germans in Paris. It wasn’t until 1994 that the United States Air Force recognized Bullard and posthumously commissioned him a Second Lieutenant. During his lifetime, Eugene Ballard was awarded fifteen French war medals.#Eugene Bullard died in New York City of stomach cancer on October 12, 1961 at age 66.