This NJ pastor is on a mission after learning her father was a Tuskegee Airman

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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Pastor learns her father was a Tuskegee Airman, speaks about his story
Pastor learns her father was a Tuskegee Airman, speaks about his story

CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Reverend Patience Rivers grew up in a household where her father worked two jobs, provided for nine children, and never spoke of his time in the military.

Decades later, Rivers discovered he was part of the historic group known as the 'Tuskegee Airmen.'

"We didn't know, growing up, who our father really was," she said. "He didn't talk at all about the war."

Her father's name was James E. Murrell. In the early 1940s, he was sent to train in Tuskegee, Alabama, and served with the United States Army in Italy. His role was working on the ground in maintenance.

Anyone who served at Tuskegee Army Air Field or was part of programs related to the "Tuskegee Experience" between 1941 and 1949 earned the title of 'documented Original Tuskegee Airman' (DOTA).

Murrell went on to serve as a reservist, started a family, and passed away in 1980.

Patience Rivers didn't learn about his past until 40 years later, after the death of her mother. The initial spark came through conversation with an older sibling.

"When I learned about this and I started to share this information, it was like a wow moment," said Rivers. "It's going to fall on my shoulders because I'm the voice who is going to be able to get this out to my family, to my relatives, everyone."

Rivers, the pastor of Centerville Outreach Ministries, visited Woodland Avenue Presbyterian Church this morning to present a speech about her father. It was the first time the church held a program specifically highlighting military contributions in celebration of Black History Month. They host various other programs throughout the year.

In the future, Rivers plans to keep speaking about her father and her daughter plans to make a book so their family can preserve his story for generations to come.

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Shaykh Anwar Muhammad created the 'Black Reserve Bookstore' in 2017 to introduce all walks of life to Black history year-round.