Colonel Bobby C. Woods, Jr., Director of Air Force JROTC from Maxwell AFB Headquarters, pinned solo flying wings on Cadet Major Shamya Mason of Wilcox Central High School. Cadet Mason’s family was in attendance for the moving and historically significant ceremony held in the Wilcox Central High School Gymnasium on Tuesday, February 23, 2016. Colonel Woods was joined in the ceremony by guests LtColonel (ret) John Hicks, President of the Black Pilots of America (BPA), who drove to Camden through bad weather from Tuskegee, Alabama; and pilots who flew in from New Orleans, Louisiana, LtColonel (ret) Floyd Miles, current National Communications Chair/Newsletter Editor of BPA, Mr. Cedric Grimes - current President of the New Orleans Golden Eagles – the Louisiana Chapter of the BPA, and Mr. James Perry - New Orleans Golden Eagles Newsletter Editor. They all braved the elements of storm and wind to personally witness, congratulate, and celebrate the accomplishments of Cadet Mason along with Superintendent Andre Saulsberry, school staff, teachers, and student body.
The historical accomplishments of Cadet Mason were mirrored in the recognition of Ms. Bessie Coleman, the first Black American female pilot to become licensed. She had to overcome two obstacles to become a pilot – her race and her gender. She was not allowed to be licensed in America and received her pilot credentials in France in 1921. Cadet Mason is the first cadet and youngest female pilot in the area, at 16 years of age, to earn her pilot’s wings. She completed the two week program at the Summer Flight Academy in Houston, Texas, sponsored by the Black Pilots of America. Cadet Mason finished the program as the number 1 student out of 12 candidates. She is currently seeking hours to complete her private pilot’s license. The outstanding efforts of Cadet Mason reflect great credit upon herself, family, school, and the community.