John H. Grant Sr., mechanic to Tuskegee Airmen

John H. Grant Sr.
John H. Grant Sr.
Posted: May 11, 2013

John H. Grant Sr., 85, of Philadelphia, an aircraft mechanic with the famed Tuskegee Airmen, died Monday, May 6, at the hospice unit at Women's Medical Hospital after a short illness.

Mr. Grant graduated with honors from Tuskegee (Ala.) Institute in 1949 with a major in aircraft technology.

He served in the Army as an aircraft mechanic based in Guam, maintaining tplanes for the airmen, the first African Americans to take to the skies on behalf of the United States.

He told his son, John Jr., that he believed the aviators never received the respect they deserved.

So Mr. Grant was thrilled when their combat exploits and the prejudice they faced were chronicled in the movie Red Tails in 2012, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard.

"Someone finally noticed," he told his son.

In 2006, six decades after they flew the signature red-tailed planes, the airmen were invited to the White House to receive special commendation medals. The presentation was authorized by Congress. Though he could not attend, Mr. Grant received the medal, which reads, "Tuskegee Airmen, 1941 to 1949."

Mr. Grant went on to earn a private pilot's license for single-engine planes and parlayed his skills into a long career in the aircraft-manufacturing industry.

From 1961 until 1993 when he retired, Mr. Grant worked for the helicopter division of Boeing Co. Prior to his retirement, he was the quality assurance manager for Boeing helicopter dynamic components and transmissions.

The son of Eleanor Lewis and James Grant, Mr. Grant was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Murrell Dobbins High School. He majored in auto mechanics and earned a varsity letter from Dobbins' first football team in 1944.

In 1952, Mr. Grant married Carolyn Sawyer. The couple settled in Mount Airy.

Mr. Grant attended Mount Olivet Baptist Church as a youth and later joined Bethlehem Baptist Church in West Philadelphia. He was honored for 65 years of service.

He was a past master of Campbell Washington Joppa Masonic Lodge. On behalf of the Masons, he acted as a liaison to the Prince Hall Elementary School on North Gratz Street.

"Mentoring was one of the things he was most proud of," his son said.

Surviving, in addition to his wife and son, are a daughter, Marsha Grant Ford; three grandchildren; and a nephew.

The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Monday, May 13, at Grace Baptist Church, 25 W. Johnson St., Germantown. A viewing will be at 9 a.m. and a Masonic service at 10. Burial will be in Ivy Hill Cemetery.


Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 215-854-2611 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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