Capt. Campbell of the Ninety-ninth Pursuit Squadron was the first Negro pilot to drop a bomb. He fought at Pantelleria, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio. He flew as much as twelve hours a day during the critical days when it seemed as if the troops at Salerno would be pushed back into the sea. They were saved from complete disaster by the air umbrella of the planes.
He was sent home having completed his mission, but asked to be sent back immediately as he wished to fight as long as a white or negro flier still faced the enemy.
I painted him at the Tuskegee Air Base, on his short furlough. He is now at the European front again.-Betsy Graves Reyneau
Born at the Tuskegee Institute, Cadet William Campbell trained there during World War II at the special facilities established for black pilots and technicians, and graduated on July 3, 1942. This portrait was painted by Betsy Graves Reyneau in Tuskegee. Campbell's father, a friend of the artist's, had suggested that she use Campbell as a model for a proposed symbolic portrait of African American participation and heroism in the war effort. As Campbell was only on leave for a day or two, Reyneau organized a photography session and choreographed several poses of Campbell in full flight gear at a Tuskegee army airfield.
William Campbell (The Aviator)
Betsey Graves Reyneau
Oil on canvas, c.1944
National Portrait Gallery