Meet the Board of Directors of the Tuskegee Airmen National Museum
Brian R Smith, PhD President
Dr. Brian R. Smith is recently retired from General Dynamics Land Systems where he was instrumental in quantifying the injury tolerance limits induced by battlefield threats such as, mine blasts and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
His cutting edge research in this field has influenced the design of Combat Vehicles for the benefit of General Dynamics and the men and women of our armed forces.
Dr. Smith is a community leader involved with social, historical, and educational programs. Dr. Smith is the first African-American to earn a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Wayne State University and has been recognized as such by the Michigan House of Representatives.
Brian has been a diligent and devoted member of the Tuskegee Airmen for more than 30 years. He is the son of a WWII POW. He currently serves as President and Treasurer of the Tuskegee Airmen National Museum, and is Direct
or of Youth Programs for the Detroit Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., Brian uses his personal aircraft to support the programs and helps maintain seven aircraft at the Tuskegee Airmen National Museum.
He was a recipient of an Outstanding Civic Award from the Detroit Engineering Society, largely as a result of his work with TAI youth programs. He also initiated and coordinates with Wayne State University the Aviation Career Education Academy and has initiated a Summer Flight Academy Detroit Tuskegee Airmen EAA Chapter 1351, Wild Blue Wonders Program and Detroit Tuskegee Airmen Glider Club.
Brian was also Director of the Conant Cougars Pathfinders Club for 35 years, started and conducted a d
rum corps that traveled around the state leading parades, playing at rallies, basketball games, and at church events. His Pathfinders joined 36,000 other Pathfinders from around the world for a Camporee in August of 2014 in Oshkosh, WI.
Dr. Smith is prominent in the Museum’s African American History and Aviation Career Week held in coop
eration with Detroit Public Schools. Not only does Brian coordinate this program, but also responsible for raising thousands of dollars for its support.
Dr. Smith frequently lectures on the Tuskegee Airmen speaking on their formation, combat experiences and what the Airmen contributed to America during and after WWII.
Dr. Smith resides in Detroit, teaches Math, Biology, Chemistry and Physics at Wayne County Community College and has flown over 1000 Young Eagles.
Erma Leaphart-Gouch, is currently a Conservation Associate Organizer with Sierra Club Michigan Chapter within their Great Lakes Program where she is heavily involved in promoting green infrastructure practices such as rain gardens, green roofs, rain barrels, permeable pavement, bio-swales etc. as an alternative to grey infrastructure for managing stormwater and preventing polluted runoff into local waterways. She has spoken at conferences and given presentations on the importance of protecting the fresh water resources that make up the Great Lakes Basin. Prior to this, she worked for 30 years with the State of Michigan primarily in the field of Human Resources Management.
Erma has a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Communication from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. She received a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City where she concentrated her studies on environmental health.
ALEXANDER JEFFERSON, Lt. Col. USAF Ret.,
Born Detroit, MI 15 November 1921. Graduate: Chadsey H.S. Detroit graduated B.S. Degree, Clark College, Atlanta, GA:
Graduate Work in Chemistry, Howard University, Washington, D.C..
In January 1944, graduated from pilot training course at Tuskegee Army Air Field
followed by three months of Combat Training at Selfridge Field, MI. He served as a P-51 fighter pilot with the Red Tail, 32nd Fighter Group. 301st Fighter Squadron in Ramitelli, Italy. In the course of providing protection from enemy aircraft, he flew 18 long range escort missions for B-17 and B-24 bombers. On Aug 12, 1944, three days prior to the invasion of Southern France, he was shot down by ground fire while strafing radar
stations on the coast. Captured by German troops and interned for nine months as a
prisoner of war, he spent five months in Stalag Luft III, 80 miles east of Berlin on the
On :January 29, 1945 when the Russians started their offensive, the prisoners, American, British and French, were transferred to Stalag VIA, Mooseburg, Approximately 20 miles north of Dachau. Liberated by American forces on 29th of April 1945, he visited Dachau to witness the results of the atrocities committed by the Nazis.
He was discharged from active duty in 1947 and retired from the reserves in 1969 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Following the war, he became an elementary school science teacher in the city of Detroit.
He retired as an assistant principal in 1979. He is an active member of various church,
educational and alumni organizations. He is one of the founders of the Detroit Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen and is a member of the Tuskegee Airmen Speakers Bureau.
As a Life Member of the Silver Falcon Assn., He serves on a voluntary basis as an
Admissions Counselor for the United States Air force Academy and the Air Force ROTC. He is a Life Member of American Ex-Prisoner of War and is a Perpetual Member of the Military Order of the World Wars.
On October 14, 1995 , he was enshrined into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame.