If you attended the dedication ceremony honoring Air Force Captain Pete Peterson, you witnessed a gloriously beautiful service.
Prior to that day, a lot of work happened behind the scenes and everyone who had a hand in the planning process deserves a pat on the back.
The Tuskegee Institute High School Class of 1964 was determined to honor Pete Peterson, even though he was not their classmate. Peterson graduated from Tuskegee Public School in 1967. But they did feel a kinship with him as well as an enormous respect for his accomplishments.
He was a child raised in Tuskegee at the same time they were growing up here. He was their peer, a home-grown success story who became a member of the elite Thunderbirds. He died during a training exercise in 1982.
For many years, the Class of ’64 advocated for this community to recognize Captain Peterson. When the Macon County Commission embraced the idea, it opened the door to critical resources such as communications with the state.
Ultimately, this state connection led to approval of the request to rename a portion of Highway 199 to Captain Joseph Pete Peterson Memorial Boulevard.
With Macon County Commission Chairman Louis Maxwell, State Representative Pebblin Warren and State Senator Billy Beasley on board, the ball was rolling in the right direction. Colonel Palmer Sullins and Dr. Gwen Trawick Moore are both affiliated with the Friends of the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, Inc. and their participation on the planning committee culminated with Colonel Sullins serving as emcee and Dr. Moore coordinating the afterglow reception at the Skyway Club.
Superintendent Sandy Taylor with the National Park Service provided personnel and facilities to enhance the experience during and after the dedication.
Tuskegee Mayor Tony Haygood secured the vocalist for the National Anthem as well as the sound system used during the dedication. Mayor Haygood also arranged for a van to transport the Peterson family to the dedication site. He had the support of Tuskegee City Councilwoman Ala Whitehead at the planning meetings.
Lyn Thompson represented the Peterson family. Lyn’s sister, Cecilia, married Pete Peterson in 1971.
Through them, the planning team connected with Captain Peterson’s sister, Juan, who provided precious pictures of Pete evolving from a young boy into a young man.
General Lloyd “Fig” Newton moved mountains of bureaucracy to get the Thunderbirds to fly over the event. With an official escort authorized by Macon County Sheriff Andre Brunson, the general was acknowledged as a visiting dignitary.
Sheriff Brunson and Tuskegee Police Chief Lester Patrick ensured that traffic and parking were handled professionally. The county’s maintenance staff worked hard to get the site ready for the ceremony.
I was in charge of public relations and also served as news media liaison. This gave me an insider’s perspective on an incredible collaboration involving many sectors of this community.
Everyone worked together for a common goal and the end result was spectacular for the Pete Peterson project and perhaps for future BUSINESS MATTERS.
Karin Hopkins is executive director of the Tuskegee Area Chamber of Commerce and also co-founder of ECHOboom, a digital media platform. Contact her at email@example.com.