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This week, three alumni from Springfield Public Schools will be inducted into the SPS Hall of Fame. One of them is the late Dr. Stewart Fulbright who graduated from Lincoln High School in 1937.
Six years after he graduated, Fulbright enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and trained in Tuskegee, Alabama—during a time of segregation. Fulbright’s son, Ed Fulbright, says despite discrimination, his father took advantage of opportunities available to him. He wanted to fly. When he went into the Army, the military was segregated and Fulbright ended up in a white training group…
"He made it through. Actually, he scored so high on the test that they didn't believe that he had done it honestly, and he said, 'well, if you want me to take it again I will, but I did it honestly.' And so he ended up--basically, they reassigned him to an African-American group--that's how he ended up becoming a Tuskegee Airman, but he just believed very much in doing your best."
The African-American pilots trained in Tuskegee, overcame segregation and adversity and played crucial roles during World War II.
Fulbright earned a BA in French from Lincoln University, an MBA from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in business administration from Ohio State.
He spent much of his career as a professor and then dean of the School of Business at North Carolina Central State University. He retired in 1982.
Ed Fulbright says his dad always stressed and demonstrated that you do your best no matter how difficult the task may be…
"It didn't matter what it was, he believed in one thing--you do it well and you don't ever settle for second. You do it the best way you can and always deliver in the thing that you can do."
Fulbright says his father’s belief in doing your best probably came from his mother, a perfectionist who catered and put on what he called fabulous events for families in the Springfield area. He believes it was seeing how hard his parents worked so their son could get an education that drove his father to succeed.
But despite all of his successes, Ed Fulbright says his father thought of his children as his biggest accomplishments…
"My sister and I, or at least that's what he had told us, is that we had turned out as well as he could have expected, and, you know, as parents you never know how your children are gonna turn out, but he said that we had turned out the way that he really wanted us to."
Fulbright says his father believed strongly in family…
"Not only his immediate family but his extended family, friends and other family members, 'cause I remember he would say, whenever there was an opportunity for a gathering of family members, he wanted to go. He was 92, and he was ready to jump on a plane and go see some more family members."
Fulbright says there were only about ten days at the end of his father’s life where his father didn’t get to do what he wanted to do—and he would’ve wanted it that way. Stewart Fulbright died January 1, 2012 at the age of 92.
He says his father was a modest man, but he would’ve enjoyed being in Springfield for the induction ceremony…
"I think he would just be very appreciative that the hometown was thinking of him. As you grow up and you move away and to get an honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame, it's just always nice to be appreciated."
Dr. Stewart Fulbright will be inducted into the SPS Hall of Fame along with Charles Armstrong and Betty Cole Dukart Thursday morning at 11:30 at the White River Conference Center.
For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.