African American News and Genealogy

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Edward H. Tunstall, Detroit: Tuskegee Airman was charitable at heart

Doug Guthrie / The Detroit News, November 22, 2005

The war ended before Edward H. Tunstall got a chance to fly the famous red-tailed P-51 Mustangs of the Tuskegee Airmen in combat. He was among the last of the groundbreaking Tuskegee Airmen trained in 1945 to fly the Army Air Corps’ high-performance fighters. They were The unit had been the first African-Americans trained as Air Corps pilots, and many of them served with distinction in the skies over Europe. The war ended before Mr. Tunstall’s class could be shipped overseas. “He could go on and on about it, his experiences in the air. He loved that airplane (the P-51),” said his wife, Marlena Tunstall. “There are very, very, few from that group left and a number of them are ill. Their ranks are dwindling.” Mr. Tunstall died Friday, Nov. 11, 2005, from liver cancer in Sinai GraceHospital. He was 82. had been diagnosed with the disease only three weeks earlier. He was 82. Born and raised in Detroit, he graduated in 1941 from NorthwesternHigh School. He returned to college in Detroit after leaving the military. He earned a degree in accounting in 1950 from Detroit Institute of Technology and joined the Internal Revenue Service in 1951. He worked for 27 years as a revenue officer and in the criminal investigations division. After a brief retirement, he was talked into a second career as an investigator for the Federal Defender’s Office. He retired again in 1997. “He was known for his compassion. He got the job done, but he didn’t scare people to death,” his wife said. “There were a lot of people who remembered him for that. He could have slammed the book on them, but found ways for them to do the right things for the government and themselves too.” Mr. Tunstall served 14 years as treasurer of the Detroit Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and a life member of the NAACP. He was an avid golfer, too, often using the sport to raise money for charity. He and his golf partners, former Tuskegee Airmen Richard Macon, Lou Johnson and Richard Jennings, raised thousands of dollars for charity every year playing in various tournaments. They last played together in May at the annual Multiple Sclerosis Longest Day tournament. “I think he only did 17 holes and everybody could see that something was wrong,” his wife said. “His death came so quickly that we were caught off guard,” she said. “He’d been a fighter all his life and he just didn’t have the chance to fight this.” Survivors include his wife of 41 years, Marlena; two daughters, Michele Tunstall and Nichol Smiley; three grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and a sister. Services were held Friday Nov. 18, 2005in OakGroveAMEChurch, Detroit, with burial in WoodlawnCemetery, Detroit.


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