General Enoch Woodhouse, of the Tuskegee Airmen, Delivers Veterans Day Hall Remarks

On November 10, Headmaster Brennan welcomed students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests to Roxbury Latin’s annual Veterans Day Commemoration Hall, which honors, as Mr. Brennan began, “those veterans who are with us, and also all those others who have served our country in peacetime and wartime over the past 250 years. Their commitment, loyalty, and service to our country, to the values for which it stands, and for each one of us ought never to be forgotten.”

Following a welcome by Mr. Brennan—which included a brief history of Armistice Day, and of the RL alumni who committed their lives to military service—came a reading by senior Michael Thomas of In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae, and a reading by senior Brandon Clark of High Flight, by John Gillespie Magee. Rousing renditions of the songs America, I Vow to Thee My Country, and God Bless America rounded out a celebration that culminated in personal, memorable remarks delivered by Brigadier General Enoch Woodhouse II, father of alumnus Enoch Woodhouse III, Class of 2003.

General Woodhouse was born in Roxbury, raised in Mission Hill, and attended high school in Jamaica Plain. In 1944, at the age of 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He attended Officer Candidate School and was commissioned 2nd Lt. at age 19. He was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group known as the Tuskegee Airmen, as Paymaster. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces. During World War II, Black Americans in many U.S. states were still subject to Jim Crow laws, and the American military was racially segregated, as was much of the federal government. General Woodhouse and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen played a critical role in World War II and in the early integration of the American Armed Forces.

After retiring from the U.S. Army Air Force, General Woodhouse attended and graduated from Yale University. He then studied at Yale Law School and at Boston University Law School, earning his JD from the latter in 1955. He worked as a trial lawyer in Boston for more than 40 years, and in the State Department, and for the City of Boston, as well.

​Among his many awards and honors, in 2007 he—along with 300 of his fellow Tuskegee Airmen—received the Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush. When his active military service was over, General Woodhouse joined the reserves, where he was recently appointed Brigadier General by Governor Charlie Baker. General Woodhouse has long been a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, which was chartered in 1638. The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company is the oldest chartered military organization in America and the third largest in the world.

Last month, a mural of General Woodhouse was unveiled at Logan Airport, painted by renowned street artist Victor Quiñonez. The mural—located in Terminal C, outside of the USO facility—celebrates him and his many fellow Tuskegee Airmen, which includes not only the navigators and bombardiers, but also the mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, cooks, and other support personnel.

During the Hall, General Woodhouse described in straightforward language—as only a nonagenarian can—what he experienced as a young, Black military man in 1940s America. He described growing up in Boston without much money, and his mother telling her two sons—after the attack on Pearl Harbor—that she wanted them to enlist in the military and fight for their country. He described the discrimination he experienced both at Yale and in the military, but he urged students to rise above the challenges in their lives; to stay true to their own values; to persevere; and not to take for granted the privileges they’ve been given.

“General Woodhouse is a stalwart patriot, and representative of a critical part of our nation’s history,” said Mr. Brennan. “We are grateful to General Woodhouse for his example, and for the service of the millions of men and women who have fought to defend the lives and freedoms that we enjoy today.”