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Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic

Honoring a legacy: Ensign Jesse L. Brown conference room dedicated at AIRLANT

by Ensign Ali Stewart
21 June 2024 Naval Air Force Atlantic (AIRLANT) dedicated a conference room in honor of Ensign Jesse L. Brown, the first African American Naval Aviator in the United States Navy, June 21.
Jesse L. Brown Conference Room
SLIDESHOW | 4 images | AIRLANT Dedicates Conference Room to Ensign Jesse L. Brown 240621-N-YM590-1016 NORFOLK, Va. (June 21, 2024) Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic (AIRLANT), reads a display dedicated to Ensign Jesse L. Brown during a ribbon cutting ceremony in which a conference room was after in honor of Brown. Brown was the first African American aviator to complete the U.S. Navy's basic flight training program, the first African American naval officer killed in the Korean War, and a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Brian M. Brooks)

Brown's life and legacy are a testament to courage and determination. The conference room dedication provided AIRLANT the opportunity to remind employees, military and civilian alike, what Brown’s selfless service means to the command and to the Navy. 

Brown was born in 1926 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and grew up in a time of segregation and racial discrimination. Despite these challenges, Brown pursued his dream of becoming a pilot. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1946 and completed flight training, earning his wings in 1948. 

Brown participated in 20 strike missions over North Korea from mid-October to early December of 1950. His final mission was on Dec. 4, 1950. While piloting his F4U-4 Corsair aircraft near the Chosin Reservoir, Brown’s plane took small arms damage to the oil system which in turn disabled his aircraft from further flight and he ended up crashing in the mountainous region of North Korea.

This conference room dedication was inspired by another conference room that was unveiled in August 2023 at AIRLANT, which commemorated Brown’s wingman and Medal of Honor recipient, Capt. Thomas Hudner.

“When Rear Adm. John ‘Oscar’ Meier [former commander for Naval Air Force Atlantic] first checked onboard, he was really keen on changing the name of the Command Conference Room (CCR) to the Thomas Hudner Conference Room,” said Richard “Spike” Pittman, director, visual information services. “We wanted to emulate the King Conference Room … at U.S. Fleet Forces Command and, while doing my research about Hudner, I was truly inspired by the story of Hudner and his wingman, Ensign Jesse L. Brown.”
During the two years it took to dedicate the Thomas Hudner Conference Room, Pittman took the liberty to create a conference room for Brown in a complimentary design.  

“They are opposite in the layout as well as the feel of the spaces. Where the Hudner Room is designed to pay homage to a Medal of Honor recipient, the Jesse L. Brown Room pays tribute to a fallen Airman who had the courage and fortitude to not only become the first African American naval pilot, but also give his life in a heroic act of valor, successfully destroying a vital supply line in the Korean War,” said Pittman.

The conference room dedicated to Brown serves not only as a physical space, but also as a symbol of his enduring legacy. Adorned with photographs and memorabilia from his life, the room is designed to inspire future generations. It is a place where stories of bravery and determination can be shared, where the next pioneers can draw strength from Brown's example.

“It was my honor to design these rooms and I hope they both bring inspiration to those who pass through them,” said Pittman. “In Brown’s own prophetic words that cannot ring truer both then and now: ‘If I become a pilot, every black man can become anything he wants to be in the Navy. I'm the beginning of things to come.’”

Naval Air Force Atlantic is responsible for six nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, 55  aircraft squadrons, 1,200 aircraft and 43,000 officers, enlisted and civilian personnel based on the East Coast of the United States. It provides combat ready, sustainable naval air forces with the right personnel, properly trained and equipped, with a focus on readiness, operational excellence, interoperability, safety and efficient resourcing.  |  |  Navy FOIA  |  DoD Accessibility/Section 508  |  No Fear Act  |  Open Government  |  Plain Writing Act  |  Veterans Crisis Line  |  VA Vet Center  |  FVAPDoD Safe Helpline  |  Navy SAPR  |  NCIS Tips  |  Site Map  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Webmaster | Information quality | Public Use notice | Useful Links
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