Welton I. Taylor graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1941 and received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Field Artillery upon graduation. Called to active duty 28 days later, he began his service with the 31st Field Artillery Training Battalion at Fort Sill, OK, transferred to the 1.... more
Welton I. Taylor graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1941 and received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Field Artillery upon graduation. Called to active duty 28 days later, he began his service with the 31st Field Artillery Training Battalion at Fort Sill, OK, transferred to the 184th Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Custer, MI, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, then became only the second African-American to train as a liaison pilot at the Second Army Air Force Liaison Training Detachment in Pittsburg, KS. Upon graduation from the Pittsburg flight school, Taylor returned to Fort Sill to complete Advanced Flight Training, then deployed to the South Pacific with the 93rd Infantry Division, 596th Field Artillery Battalion. He flew liaison missions on the islands of Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Mono, and Morotai from 1943 to the end of the war.
In 1945, Taylor returned to the University of Illinois to pursue his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in bacteriology on the G.I. bill. Over a stellar career that spanned the next fifty years, he taught microbiology at the medical schools of both the University of Illinois and Northwestern University, did ground-breaking research on the prevention of bacteriological contamination in the nation’s food supply, helped France and Britain eradicate Salmonella in their imported foods, became Microbiologist-in-Chief at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital, and served as consulting microbiologist at twelve other Chicago-area hospitals. In the process, he obtained four patents, published forty articles in scientific journals, invented a product still used by laboratories worldwide to certify foods Salmonella-free, and had a bacterium named in his honor by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta in 1985.
In 2005, Maj. Taylor was invited to join Chicago’s chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. in recognition of his having served with fourteen Tuskegee-trained liaison pilots in the 93rd Infantry Division. Taylor thus returned to his lifelong passion--flying--at the age of 85, and for the next seven years, helped his fellow pilots introduce inner-city children to the joys and challenges of flight and educated scores of corporate, civic, and academic groups on the triumphs and frustrations of the Tuskegee Airmen and other African American heroes of WWII.
In July of 2012, Maj. Taylor unveiled his long-awaited history and memoir, Two Steps from Glory, at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture2012 in Oshkosh, WI. That would be his final mission: he passed three months later on November 1st—just eleven days shy of his 93rd birthday—having given a lifetime of service to his family, his country, and the world.
Maj. Welton I. Taylor's Projects
Two Steps from Glory: A World War II Liaison Pilot Confronts Jim Crow and the Enemy in the South Pacific
African Americans enlisted by the hundreds of thousands during World War II, swelling the ranks o... more