She said McIlwain was always willing to talk about his experience as a Tuskegee Airmen.
“He wanted children to know who the (Tuskegee) men are. They didn’t realize they had met an icon,” Rahme said.
Glendora Putnam said she beamed with pride looking at her brother among his buddies.
“I’m very proud that the country saw what had happened and did something about it. It was sad that they had to wait so long for the country to recognize what they had done. I’m glad he was alive to be able to participate and meet again with his buddies,” Putnam said.
Born in Blaine, S.C., McIlwain’s family moved to the area when he was 2. He graduated from Searles High in 1939 and attended Allen University in Columbia, S.C. When he tried to join the military, recruiters ridiculed him for wanting to be a pilot, but he eventually enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943.
After the war, McIlwain was a police officer in New York City until 1968. McIlwain returned to Methuen after retiring from the police department.