Benjamin Davis Jr. was a history-making war hero. The 1936 West Point graduate assumed such duties as vice commander, commander and chief of staff on various wings and organizations of the United States Air Force, including command of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, according to his bio on the armed service’s official website. But for all the four-star general’s contributions to his country, a permanently shuttered high school named after him in Cleveland, Ohio has been left to fall apart.
“General Davis was a true American hero and his name is now stuck to a deteriorating type building, and I just think we can do better than that,” said Steve Longworth, who spent four years in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, of the the old Aerospace and Maritime High School to 19 News Sept. 2.
Longworth, who has an affinity for taking to the air, explained he is offended by the former high school, which is now characterized by an abandoned, rusting control tower and broken out windows. “I think that’s one of the reasons when I see his name on that building it kind of rubs me the wrong way. But I knew that he overcame a lot to get to where he was and become a four-star general,” said Longworth.
The building named after Davis, who was was the son of the first African-American to rise to the rank of general in thee U.S. armed forces, Army Brigadier General Benjamin Davis Sr., closed in 1996 according to Cleveland.com. The city ultimately took over ownership of the school, which first opened its doors in September 1974. When the $3.1 million Cleveland Board of Education project launched, students could study airframe, power plant mechanics, engine maintenance, radio transmission, and distributive operations.
But those days are in the past of the building now, which after it shuttered its doors became a homeless shelter in the 1990s, has since fallen into a state of disrepair. Chalkboards and old track records are still hanging up, but roof leaks and peeling paint abound. Despite talks of it being taken over for airport use in 2016, little progress had been made by the following year. Meanwhile, old hangars have been used as storage for the Cleveland Police, Cleveland.com reported.
As for a possibly better way to honor Davis Jr., Longworth, the fellow Air Force veteran, told 19 News he wants the Cleveland Metropolitan School district to build a Davis statue, which could maybe be located in the new West High School.