Hillard Pouncy

Born in Prichard, Alabama, in 1922, Hillard Pouncy moved into his grandparents’ home in Eufaula in 1930. They needed support around the house, and Pouncy’s parents decided he should be the one to help them. After his grandfather retired, Pouncy took over his position as janitor of the First Methodist Church. In 1940 he graduated as valedictorian from his high school and enrolled at the Tuskegee Institute on a work scholarship.

Pouncy was first posted in a machine shop at Tuskegee but later transferred to a farm where he loaded hay. In addition to his classes, he also worked as a short order cook in a local restaurant to earn extra spending money. As a student Pouncy saw members of the Tuskegee Air Squadron marching around campus and decided to join after he was drafted into the military during the Second World War. When he became the last cadet “washed out” of pilot training school, Pouncy transferred to bombardier school instead. Unlike pilots trained at Tuskegee, most bombardiers and navigators never saw combat because their skills were underestimated by military command. Pouncy expected to go to the Pacific, but spent the last months of the war learning navigation skills in addition to his bombardier training.

After the war he earned a master’s degree in Chemistry at Tuskegee and a PhD at Syracuse University in New York, where he served as a reservist in the Air National Guard. For 30 years he moved around the world in his position as a chemist for Union Carbide. He married a schoolteacher named Mattie Mae Hunter and had one son. He retired to Austell, Georgia, in 2005.

Early Childhood in Alabama

"I was born in Prichard, Alabama, February 8th, 1922. I had one brother and two sisters. I lived with them for about 3 or 4—maybe 8 years, and then it was decided that…I should live with my grandparents. You must remember, in the early…

Helping Grandparents

"Well, Eufaula is on the bluff of the Chattahoochee River, and it’s called “The Bluff City.” It was a small town when I lived there, about 6,000 people, and it was about 50% black and 50% white. My—my father, my grandfather was a…

High School Education

"We didn’t have a high school, we had tenth grade, and when you finished the tenth grade, that was the end of the line. Now the other school system across town where I couldn’t go, of course they had high school. So at the end of tenth…

Enrolling at Tuskegee

"After high school in Henry County, I learned the Tuskegee would offer people jobs. They would give ’em work scholarships, and if you would come to Tuskegee and wan—and you were willing to work, you could just about work your way through…

Becoming a Tuskegee Airman

"I just about knew it was gonna happen. I was the right age. I was about…18, 19 at that time, and…I felt I was gonna go. I did learn, however, that if you volunteer, sometime you can pick the service that you want, and when I got to…

Bombardier School

"Were there dangers? Flying is risky. It’s always risky. We had a saying that…there were old pilots and there were bold pilots, so you have to be careful. They says, there were never any old, bold pilots. If you’re too bold, you never…

Navigation School

"Our group, B-25, was supposed to go in the Pacific, and we were supposed to fly a mission from some island near…Japan onto Japan to the Japan mainland, that’s what we were supposed to do. And this thing got so bad, so very bad, that the…

PhD at Syracuse University

"Now, after the war’s over, and wars have a way of ending, I came back to school, and I went to graduate school at T—at Syracuse, Syracuse University. And I flew with the New York Air National Guard as a radar observer, and that was a…

Working for Union Carbide

"I went to work for a company called Union Carbide. This company had a division called the Visking Division, and this division would make skins for skinless wieners. There was a man who noticed that America was buying more and more hot dogs. …

Working in Saudi Arabia

"And in the Middle East, they came to our place, came to our laboratory, and we talked to them and tell them what we were doing…and someone in the Middle East bought a license from Union Carbide. And they found out that they really didn’t…

Retirement to Georgia

"I had a wife. Her name was Mattie. I met her in college. We stayed married a long time. She passed away about 4 or 5 years ago. She was a teacher. She taught elementary school. She also taught special education, now, if you have any…

Grandson's Graduation

"Yes, I went there…and…he did graduate, and I was there. My wife wasn’t there, she had passed away, but I sat there during that graduation and…I think I was kind of transfixed because my grandson was graduating from one of the best…
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