MG Harold Mitchell honored at Museum of Flight ceremony

BEAUFORT, South Carolina (WSAV) – On April 30, Maj. Gen. Harold “Mitch” Mitchell was honored at the Museum of Flight ceremony honoring his impact on the young people’s lives.

The museum said in its tribute to him, “What Mitchell has done, after two careers of incredible achievement, is find a way to positively impact the young people of Washington State: challenge them, inspire them. and provide them with opportunities where there were none before. . The beauty of his work is that his impact will be felt for years to come. In true Pathfinder fashion, Mitch Mitchell has indeed made a significant contribution to the development of the aerospace industry.

Prior to his retirement and return to his hometown of Beaufort, Mitchell and his wife, Kelly, made Seattle their home. For 31 years, Mitchell flew for Alaska Airlines, the world’s 6th largest airline, while continuing to serve his country.

1998, Major General Mitchell flying for Alaska Airlines. Photo provided.

Mitchell also has a passion for educating young people. While living in Seattle, he wanted to reach kids of color who might be inspired by a career in aviation, like he was as a child. Memories of working on his family’s farm and seeing Navy jets fly over their home eventually led to the creation of the Michael P. Anderson Memorial Aerospace Program at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

Students of the Michael P. Anderson Memorial Aerospace Program. Photo provided.

Its mission is to inspire underserved middle school youth (6th-8th grade) across Washington State to participate in the museum’s exciting educational programs while being mentored by aerospace and aviation industry professionals.

According to 2021 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 93% of the nation’s 158,000 airline pilots and flight engineers identify as white, 6.1% Hispanic or Latino, while only 3.9% are black and 1.5% Asian.

The program was named for Lt. Col. Michael P. Anderson, a US Air Force instructor pilot and tactical officer who became an astronaut in 1995 and has spent more than 593 hours in space. At 43, Anderson served as a mission specialist on Columbia STS-107. The mission ended abruptly when the Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew perished during entry, 16 minutes before its scheduled landing.

The Michael P. Anderson Memorial Aerospace program was named in honor of Lt. Col. Michael P. Anderson. Photo provided.

At a memorial service for Anderson in Spokane, Washington, where Anderson grew up, Mitchell found himself stirred by a call to action from then-Washington Governor Christine Gregoire. Gregoire said the state needs to build on Anderson’s legacy, especially with children.

“Michael tried to inspire the kids to be all they could be,” Mitchell said. “I saw him once in Las Vegas in 1999. It was at a convention for black aerospace professionals and Tuskegee aviators. Michael was there as a Youth Day speaker and was surrounded by children.

Since its inception in 2009, the Michael P. Anderson Memorial Aerospace Program has educated more than 1,000 students in grades 6-8 in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.

Mitchell, now an alderman for the city of Beaufort, took office as a member of the city council in December 2020. He is a proud graduate of Robert Smalls High School and South Carolina State College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. of Science in Business Administration. , and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US States Marines Corps.

However, it wasn’t in his high school classroom, nor in middle school, that Mitchell fell in love with airplanes. It was on his family farm in Sheldon, South Carolina.

“I was drawn to airplanes the first time I saw one,” Mitchell said, recalling how he saw fighter jets flying over his family’s small farm. He was one of nine children, and he was the only one who decided to become a pilot – before he even knew what it meant.

Mitchell’s father and mother. Photo provided.

“One day I was plowing the mule and four blue jets came through the house. They were just a nice blue color flying in very close formation. Well, I didn’t know it then, but it was the Blue Angels. I thought, ‘now it looks a lot more fun up there than I have here behind this plow.'”

The Blue Angels are the naval aviation ambassadors of the United States. As the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels’ mission is to showcase Navy and Marine Corps skill and teamwork through flight demonstrations and educational outreach. from the community.

One day during his senior year in high school, Mitchell and his brother were working at Brays Island Plantation when he encountered a Marine in his blue uniform, who had just returned from serving in Vietnam.

Mitchell in Kingsville, TX in 1973. Photo provided.

“I asked him if I could see his plane. He said “of course”. He came to school one day, and took me to the air station, and showed me his F-4 Phantom jet. I then decided, ‘this is for me.’

Mitchell was in ROTC at South Carolina State University, where he expected to fly Army helicopters until a Navy recruiter told him there was a good chance he could fly. fixed-wing aircraft if he became a Marine. “I discovered that my training could lead to becoming an airline pilot,” Mitchell said. “So not only could I enjoy flying, but I could also make a living from it.”

Mitchell became a Marine and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1972, the start of a prominent career in the United States Marines and the United States Air Force.

“That trip to the airbase was life changing,” he said. Much like the Michael P. Anderson Fellowship Program he led, it has also changed lives and allows middle school students across Washington State to meet astronauts, engineers, and pilots.

The Museum of Flight is the largest independent, not-for-profit air and space museum in the world. It has over 175 aircraft and spacecraft, tens of thousands of artifacts, millions of rare photographs, dozens of exhibits and experiences, and a world-class library.

More information about the Aviation Museum can be found here.

About Carlos V. Mitchell

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