July 28, 2003 by

Robert Thorne

1 comment

Categories: Medicine, Military

Dr. Robert Leslie Thorne, the youngest member of the Tuskegee Airmen, died on July 13 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 78.
Thorne was 17 when he enlisted in the Air Force in 1943. Because of his race, the military put him in the Alabama-based Tuskegee Airmen, the pioneering unit that shattered racial misconceptions about the quality of black pilots. Thorne qualified as a bombardier and a navigator; he had just completed his training to become a fighter pilot when World War II ended.
After the war, Thorne applied to the University of Michigan dental school under the G.I. Bill, but was turned down because the school had already reached its racial quota. Undeterred, Thorne applied to the New York University dental school and was accepted.
He spent 40 years in private practice as a dentist in Harlem, and often volunteered his services to the children of New York City.

One Response to Robert Thorne

  1. Gary T. Thorne

    He is my father. He has 3 sons. I’m the youngest. Dad, was known affectionately by our friends as “The Doc”. He had time to come to my football games on the weekends and to take me fishing. He was Strick, but often generous to a fault. He left me with several words of wisdom that I will never forget. When he dropped me off at college my first day he said, “Remember, Gary, trust no one!”. And, as a child he used to say, “if you aren’t going to do it right the first time, don’t do it at all”. Also, “If you can’t pay cash, then you really can’t afford it”. I really fell in love with my father at the age of 33. I finally realized, appreciated and respected all he had done. He is sorely missed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *