Willa Brown, born on Jan. 21, 1906, was one of the pioneer figures in the world of African-American aviators. She was the first Black female officer in the Civil Air Patrol and the first Black woman to hold a commercial pilot’s license in the United States.
Brown was the coordinator of war-training service for the Civil Aeronautics Authority and later was a member of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Women’s Advisory Board.
A native of Glasgow, Kentucky, Brown earned a degree from Indiana State Teachers College and a master’s degree from the Aeronautical University in Chicago. She later earned a master’s in business administration from Northwestern University.
She and her husband, Cornelius Coffey, formed the Coffey School of Aeronautics to train African-American pilots. Brown retired in 1971 as a schoolteacher. She died of a stroke in 1992.