By Chantay Hyman | FAMUan Staff Reporter
The unveiling of a historic marker in honor of First Lt. James R. Polkinghorne recently took place during the Florida A&M University inauguration festivities at the FAMU Village.
Polkinghorne enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force when he was entering his senior year at FAMU. In 1943, he graduated from Tuskegee Army Airfield with FAMU alumnus Roy Spencer, who was on the same mission. As flight leader of his squadron, Lieutenant Polkinghorne and his 301st fighter group set off to Sezze, Italy in 1944. Unfortunately, his combat flight went missing in a strafing mission during World War II. The plane and its servicemen were never found. Polkinghorne was honored for his service with a Purple Heart and an Air Metal.
In 1948, on homecoming weekend, the 332nd Tuskegee airmen flew over FAMU to acknowledge the two-story apartment complex, Polkinghorne Village on Gamble Street, which was named in Polkinghorne’s honor. Today, FAMU Village takes the place where Polkinghorne Village once stood.
During the unveiling ceremony, FAMU President Larry Robinson presented the historic marker and acknowledged the courage of the men on the mission during World War II. “On this Veterans Day weekend, we mark the legacy of Lt. James Polkinghorne Jr. His short, but significant life…Today we rededicate this place to honor Polkinghorne’s bravery and ensure that FAMU students are educated about this great pioneer, in African-American history, FAMU history and world history,” Robinson said.
FAMU’s former Vice President of University Relations, Eddie Jackson, who ensured that the marker installation ceremony took place, spoke on the importance of the historic marker. “This marker will forever be here to remind us of the role that African Americans played in making America the country that it is today,” said Jackson.
The historic marker lies in the FAMU Village breezeway, in memory of one of FAMU’s trailblazers, First Lt. James R. Polkinghorne.