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Oath Bound -- the real John Robinson

John_C_Robinson

One of the most fascinating people I learned about in the course of writing Oath Bound was John C. Robinson, the father of the Ethiopian Air Force. As an African-American boy growing up in Gulfport, Mississippi in the early part of the 20th century, the idea that he could be an aviator was absurd. But inspired by having once seen a seaplane land at the age of seven, he decided that flight was his dream. He attended the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, one of the premier tech schools of the day for African-Americans, where he majored in automotive mechanical science, a new field that was just opening. He got a job as a mechanic at the airport in Detroit, working on aircraft engines. There, he persuaded the pilots to give him flying lessons on the Jenny biplane. It was love at first sight.

He then applied at the Curtiss-Wright School of Aviation in Chicago -- but despite his degree was turned down three times because of his race. Undeterred, he took a job there as janitor and sat in on the classes. Eventually, an instructor, Bill Henderson, went to bat for him and he became the first African-American student at the school, and the first to earn his license there. Furthermore, he got Henderson to sponsor the Aero Study Group, a group of young black men who wanted to be pilots. A number of them subsequently enrolled at the school and got their licenses as well. He then persuaded his alma mater, the Tuskegee Institute, to add a degree in Aeronautical Studies and to provide pilot training. For this he is known as the Father of the Tuskegee Airmen.

In 1935, when the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, called for pilots to help defend Ethiopia from the Italians, John Robinson answered the call. His qualifications impressed the Emperor, as did his command potential, and he was named commander of the Ethiopian Air Force -- all twelve planes. He immediately set about training pilots and creating an effective fighting force -- which is where our story meets him in January of 1936.

Ultimately, John Robinson remained in Ethiopia. In the late 40s he resigned from the Ethiopian Air Force (which was largely financed by Sweden) after the last of a series of bitter disputes with Count Karl Gustaf von Rosen, his old rival. Robinson and one of Haile Selassie's sons set up Sultan Airlines, the first African-owned airline to serve the continent. In 1954 Robinson died from injuries sustained in a plane crash while delivering urgently needed blood to a remote area. He is honored today by two nations, the nation of his birth and the land that adopted him.

Robinson giving flight orders

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Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
selki
Dec. 20th, 2015 03:08 pm (UTC)
1) I can hardly wait to read it!
2) That first photo -- what a hunk!
jo_graham
Dec. 21st, 2015 09:46 am (UTC)
Oath Bound may be my favorite so far. I loved doing the Alexandria sections.

Isn't he? The aviators of that generation had so much panache and style.
squishydish
Dec. 22nd, 2015 07:47 am (UTC)
Mmmm, yesssss. Looks like the man had some swagger -- and earned every bit of it.

Actually, though, my favorite scenes were with Jerry this time around: Jerry and I., Jerry and W., and Jerry and ... later plot stuff, lovely stuff.
jo_graham
Dec. 22nd, 2015 04:32 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked Jerry's part! For a change, this time I wrote most of Jerry and Melissa wrote most of Mitch. I loved, loved, loved writing Alexandria.
dncingmalkavian
Dec. 28th, 2015 04:12 pm (UTC)
This is SO COOL.
selki
Feb. 24th, 2016 12:32 am (UTC)
Hey there, any word on paperback publication schedule for Oath Bound? I'm going to feel silly if I end up getting the Kindle version now when I could have had it in December (I just prefer paper), but maybe that's what I should do.

Also FWIW, James Nicoll just reviewed Wind Raker. He likes your characters, even if it's not his fave of the series: http://jamesdavisnicoll.com/review/almas-hawaiian-adventure
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )