Community Celebrating Diversity - CCD
Wednesday January 11, 2017
5:00pm | Registration/Reception
6:00pm | Doors Open
7201 E. Henkel Way
Scottsdale AZ, 85255
Author of “Cleared for Takeoff: A Pilot’s Story of Challenges and Triumphs” headlines annual MLK Jr Dinner Celebration
William "Bill" Norwood, author of “Cleared for Takeoff: A Pilot’s Story of Challenges and Triumphs”, was the first African American pilot for United Airlines and flew the "friendly skies" for 31 years before retiring in 1996.
Bill grew up in a small, segregated southern Illinois town in the 1940s and '50s. Though their financial resources were meager, Bill was rich in love, support and guidance from family, friends and a childhood mentor. Bill found inspiration in his elementary school principal, who was a pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. Bill quickly discovered he too wanted to fly. He took his dream to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where he was the first black quarterback, participated in ROTC and, many years later in 2014, received his honorary doctorate in Aviation Science. Bill worked hard, and eventually became a pilot flying B-52s in the U.S. Air Force and again, making history when he joined United as a pilot in 1965.
Bill's life is filled with both ups and downs - overcoming prejudice, facing discrimination while looking for housing and losing a son to cancer, and his triumphs - flying with the top crew in his squadron, meeting presidents Clinton and Obama, and, above all, succeeding in a career he loved.
Bill shares his love of flying and adventurous spirit in hopes of inspiring others, especially young people, to pursue their dreams, both in the air and on the ground. Today, the Mesa, Arizona, resident flies radio-controlled airplanes, travels and plays golf. He is active with the Archer-Ragsdale Arizona chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc. He also works with youth through volunteering at aviation camps and speaking at schools. Bill, who helped found the Organization of Black Airline Pilots, was inducted as a Lincoln Laureate into The Lincoln Academy of Illinois - the highest honor a civilian can receive in Illinois. He and his wife, Molly, have been married for more than 56 years. And on January 11th, 2017, we are honored to call him our 2017 keynote speaker.