Grand Marshall named for Edison parade

April 29, 2017 by  

When the Memorial Day parade rolls in Edison for the 55th time next month, its Grand Marshall will be Tuskeegee Airman Charles Nolley.

The 99-year-old resident of Edison was named by Thomas Lankey, Edison’s mayor.

‘Tuskeegee Airmen’ is the name generally given to African-American pilots who fought in the Second World War. This particular group formed the 477th Bombardment Group and 332nd Fighter Group. The pilots, who flew both bombers and fighters, learned to fly at the Tuskeegee Army Airfield, and went to school at Tuskeegee University. The term is also used to describe supporting personnel, like bombardiers and mechanics, attached to the units.

Nolley was drafted in 1943, trained at Tuskeegee, and flew missions over Europe for three years, serving as a lieutenant with the 99th Pursuit Squadron. This and three other all-black combat units proved to be outstanding fighters, and helped usher in the desegregation of the armed forces in 1948.

After his discharge in 1946, Nolley went back to show business and performed in several Broadway productions. He then earned a Bachelor’s from Virginia State University and followed it up with a Master’s in dramatic arts from Columbia University. He taught at Newark’s Barringer Prep for years, then served as its vice principal.

The parade is scheduled for May 28, beginning at 2:00 pm. Events like this can benefit if organizers create festive banners to line the route and celebrate the day.