First Lieutenant Spurgeon N. Ellington
First Lieutenant Spurgeon Neal Ellington was born on October 17, 1919, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to James and Erma Ellington. Lt. Ellington grew up in Winston-Salem and attended local Atkins High School and Winston-Salem Teachers College (later Winston-Salem State University). According to the 1940 United States Census records, Lt. Ellington was an elementary school teacher at Pender County Training School, a school for African American children. Lt. Ellington was known to be a very proud man in that he was confident in himself and his abilities.
In 1941, Lt. Ellington registered for the draft. In April 1942, Lt. Ellington formally enlisted in the United States Army at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Upon enlisting, he requested to be assigned to the Tuskegee pilot training program in Alabama.
In May of 1943, Lt. Ellington won his wings as a part of Class 43-E-SE and was assigned to the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group. After receiving his wings, Lt. Ellington flew back to Winston-Salem and buzzed Main Street. He was subsequently court-martialled and fined upon returning to base. He was forgiven for his actions. He would later be sent to Michigan for advanced combat training.
First Lt. Spurgeon Ellington's Registration Card
In September of that same year, Lt. Ellington married Maria "Lollipoop" Hawkins. Lt. Ellington even painted the "Lollipoop," the nickname he called Hawkins, along with a picture of her on his PD-51 Mustang (fighter plane). Hawkins was the niece of Charlotte Hawkins Brown. Brown was the founder of the Palmer Memorial Institute, a private school for African-Americans in Sedalia, North Carolina. Maria Hawkins would later marry Nat King Cole after the passing of Lt. Ellington.
On January 3, 1944, Lt. Ellington and the rest 332nd were sent to Sicily and flew their first missions at Bari, Taranto, and Naples, Italy, in mid-February of 1944. After those missions, the 332nd became a part of the 15th Air Force. After those first few missions, the talent of the 332nd and 100th squadron was apparent. They began flying hundred of assignments, including long-range bomber escort and short-range attacks in Germany, Austria, and other places.
The 332nd was quickly becoming renowned for their talents and abilities as they were trusted with one of the most important missions of the War. On July 9, 1944, they were responsible for protecting B-24 planes (heavy bombers) and bombing a large oil refinery at Ploesti, Rumania. From that point forward, the 332nd was given daily missions.
First Lieutenant Spurgeon Ellington received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery on October 11 and 12, 1945. When they were able to attack railroad and river traffic along the Danube River from Budapest, Hungary, to Bratislava, Slovakia, in this attack, 17 aircraft on the ground were destroyed, and seven Messerschmitt 109s (German fighter aircraft) were also destroyed. Lieutenant Ellington had planned to return to Tuskeegee to train other African American pilots; shortly after returning to the United States First Lieutenant Spurgeon Ellington was killed in a non-combat-related plane crash.
Francis, Charles E. The Tuskegee Airmen: The Men Who Changed a Nation. Boston: Branden Publishing Company, 1993.
CAF RISE ABOVE. “Spurgeon Neal Ellington,” October 28, 2020. https://cafriseabove.org/spurgeon-neal-ellington/.
Image Credits and Courtesies
Spurgeon Ellington's Draft Card:
The National Archives at Atlanta; Atlanta, Georgia; WWII Draft Registration Cards for North Carolina, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 108
1st Leuitenant Spurgeon Ellington:
Courtesy of the Winston-Salem State University Archives