COLONEL (RETIRED) LAWRENCE E ROBERTS
Died October 12,2004
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Lawrence E. Roberts was born December 9, 1922 in Vauxhall, New Jersey. He entered the United States Army Air Corps as a Pre-Aviation Cadet Private at Keesler Field in 1943 and was later assigned to the Tuskegee Airmen pilot training program in 1944. Roberts flew Piper Cubs, Boeing B-25 Bombers, C-54 transports and F-86 fighter jets. Colonel Roberts served in numerous flying, technical and command assignments. He performed duties as a jet fighter pilot in the Air Defense Command, a Flight Instructor at the fighter school at Williams Air Force Base, Ground Electronics Officer in Japan and Canada, Chief of Ground Communication-Electronics and Meteorological Maintenance for the Air Division headquarters, Department Chief for Ground Electronics and Officer Training at Keesler Air Force Base, Commander of NATO Communications, Organization and Chief Communications-Electronics and Logistics Advisor to the Vietnamese Air Force Headquarters and as Commander of the Maintenance and Supply Group at Keesler Air Force Base.
He served in Vietnam and was awarded the Republic of Vietnam Air Force Distinguished Service Order Second Class award. Roberts won a total of 18 service medals and awards: Legion of Merit with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Joint Service and AF Commendation Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor and Two Oak Leaf Clusters, Combat Readiness Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, National Defense Service Medal with One Bronze Service Star, Korean Service Medal with Two Bronze Service Stars, Vietnam Service Medal, Air Force Longevity Service award with One Silver Oak Leaf Cluster, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Distinguished Service Order and the Air Service Medal from the Republic of Vietnam.
In 1975, Colonel Roberts's military career came full circle. He retired after 32 years of service at the same base that he was first assigned to in 1943, Keesler AFB. He adopted the Mississippi Gulf Coast as his permanent home and for the next 29 years continued his deep involvement with KAFB and the surrounding community. His impact was so great that the only Mississippi chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Club was a named in his honor. On October 12, 2004 Colonel Lawrence Roberts passed away at his home at the age of 81.
Since his passing, Roberts has continued to posthumously receive awards throughout the country. In 2004, the Mississippi State Legislature drafted a resolution honoring his life and legacy and on March 29, 2007, he received the highest civilian award bestowed by the federal legislature, the Congressional Gold Medal. President George W. Bush honored Col Roberts and other Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal for their bravery, patriotism and the flying skills that helped persuade President Truman to desegregate the armed forces.