Granville Coleridge Coggs (1925–2019)
Granville Coggs was a pilot in the United States Army Air Corps and was one of the Original Tuskegee Airmen. He later attended Harvard Medical School and became the first African American to serve as staff physician at the Kaiser Hospital in San Francisco, California. In 2001, he became a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.
Granville Coleridge Coggs was born on July 30, 1925, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) to Dr. Tandy Washington Coggs and Nannie Hinkle Coggs. The family later moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County). His father was an educator who served as the president of Arkansas Baptist College from 1937 to 1955.
Coggs attended Dunbar High School, graduating in 1942. Coggs took classes at Arkansas Baptist College but was attending Howard University in the fall of 1943 before he enlisted in the U.S. Army, volunteering for the Black Army Air Corps. After training at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and at Tyndall Field in Florida, he served in the United States Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1946 as an aerial gunner, aerial bombardier, multi-engine pilot, and B-25 pilot trainee who was scheduled for the 477th Bombardment group but never made it to combat, as the war ended in 1945 before he finished training.
Coggs earned his commission as lieutenant, second class, in January 1945. He was commissioned on October 16, 1945, as a second lieutenant bombardier pilot, having received his bombardier training at Midland Army Airfield in Midland, Texas, and was a weather observer the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama until the fall of 1946, when he was discharged.
He left the Tuskegee Institute to attend the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, graduating in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree in science. He subsequently applied to Harvard Medical School and was the only African American in his freshman class there. The GI bill granted him $500 toward the cost of Harvard Medical School, and the school provided him a scholarship for $330, or the remainder of the tuition. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in June 1953 with a doctorate in medicine. Coggs was also suitemates for a time with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Boston, Massachusetts, area.
Coggs met Maud Currie in college, and they married on August 20, 1946, in Arkansas. The two had a son, Granville Currie, and two daughters, Anita and Carolyn.
Coggs became a physician and, in 1959, became the first black staff physician at the Kaiser Hospital in San Francisco. In 1972, Coggs became the first African American to lead the Ultrasound Radiology Division at the University of California at San Francisco. Coggs retired in San Antonio, Texas, as a radiologist and breast cancer specialist.
Coggs also achieved renown as a runner. He began running in his early seventies after being diagnosed with narcolepsy. His wife coached him, as she had been a track star in her youth. A friend recommended that he train for the National Senior Games. In 1999, he won eighteen gold medals in the 1500 meter at the national competition. He began focusing more on the 400 meter and continued running both events at state senior races. Coggs won gold in the 400-meter dash in the Senior Olympics on March 22, 2009, in San Antonio.
Coggs was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2001. He died on May 7, 2019.
For additional information:
Bernal, Caesar. “Granville Coleridge Coggs.” http://pacweb.alamo.edu/interactivehistory/projects/people/categories/WorldWarII/Veterans/Coggs-Bernal/Oral%20History%201.htm (accessed July 16, 2019).
Davis, Edmond. “The Original Tuskegee Airmen: Pulaski County African American Pilots of World War II.” Pulaski County Historical Review 56 (Winter 2008): 121–129.
———. Pioneering African-American Aviators: Featuring the Tuskegee Airmen of Arkansas. Little Rock: Aviate Through Knowledge Productions, LLC, 2012.
Katz, Brigit. “Granville Coggs Fought Racism in the Military as a Tuskegee Airman.” Smithsonian.com. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/granville-coggs-who-fought-racism-military-tuskegee-airman-has-died-180972157/ (accessed July 16, 2019).
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