By Ralph Hood

My last column—about the Tuskegee Airmen—brought in several comments. One of the most interesting was the email telling me something that I didn’t know at all: there were also Tuskegee women!

The Tuskegee Army Nurses were a part of Tuskegee that had been totally unknown to me until, once again, Pat Luebke—my hard-working friend and media person—informed me of them and put me in touch with Ms. Pia Jordan, Tuskegee Army Nurses Project Director.

Obviously, the Tuskegee Army Nurses are not as well known as the Tuskegee Airmen, but Ms. Jordan is building a website on which you can follow her progress:  www.TuskegeeArmyNurses.info. We wish her the very best.

People ask me about Tuskegee Institute (now University). How did it start? Who built it and kept it growing?

Ah—that brings up another great historic story wrapped around one man, the great Booker T. Washington.

For a quick history, just look up Booker T. Washington on Wikipedia. It is a truly awesome story.

I first read that story in elementary school where we had tons of biographies in the library. They were all orange—front and back—and I do believe I read every one of them cover to cover.

If you go to Wikipedia, notice carefully the dates involved. Mr. Washington was born a slave. As an adult, he advised United States presidents. Unbelievable!

He started Tuskegee Institute with a little bit of money and a lot of effort. His goal was to teach his students how to earn a living and compete in the free market, plain and simple. His students literally built their own school: making bricks, constructing classrooms, barns and outbuildings, and growing their own crops and raising livestock, both for learning and to provide the basic necessities. Both men and women had to learn trades as well as academics.

Booker T. Washington was unbelievable. That’s all I can say.

He died in 1915, when he was only 59 years old. His reputation lives on.

Send comments to ralph@ralphhood.com.