'A life well-lived': Central Ohio remembers original Tuskegee Airman Hilton Carter Jr.

Photo provided by family

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Central Ohio is mourning the loss of an original Tuskegee Airman.

Hilton Carter Jr., 91, died May 6 after a life of service. As a teen, he joined the Army and flew missions with the Air Corps in the Pacific during World War II. After the war, he was assigned to Lockbourne Air Force Base in Columbus, now known as Rickenbacker International Airport. It served as the home of the Tuskegee Airmen.

"I was very, very proud of him," said his wife of 68 years, Odessa Carter.

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Odessa Carter explained her husband faced discrimination not only in the military, but also here at home. It was something he spoke of often throughout his life.

"That really hurt him," she said. "He said, 'How can you use me in the military? I'm worthy of doing that, but I'm not worthy here at home?'"

After being honorably discharged in 1949, Hilton continued to serve his country as a flight engineer. He eventually settled in Franklin County becoming very active in church and politics. Carter Jr. won many awards during his lifetime, including the Congressional Gold Medal.

However, to his family, his accomplishments weren't what mattered most.

"We just let what he did speak for itself," Odessa Carter said.

Carter Jr. was a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He loved to share stories of his life, teach life skills, and offer advice.

"Always save some money, keep some money in the bank," said his daughter Paula Barrett, recalling his advice. "Get a good education. All the time, get a good education."

Carter Jr.'s granddaughter Kassidy Barrett added, "[He wanted] to teach us how to do all these kinds of things, so we had these skills for our lives too."

More than anything, his family says they are proud of the man he was and the impact he had on those he met.

"We're going to miss him dearly because he was a good person. He was a good provider. He took care of himself and he took care of us," Odessa Carter said.

To read more about Carter Jr.'s life and funeral arrangements, click here.

The Franklin County Board of Elections released the following statement on Carter Jr.'s passing where once served as deputy director:

"Carter brought his wealth of knowledge and experience to the Franklin County Board of Elections, serving the county’s voters by administering elections. Carter’s long and illustrious career of public service ended at the Franklin County Board of Elections some thirty years ago, but his sacrifices to defend democracy will not be forgotten."