Salute to Bessie Coleman on Exhibit in Airport’s Main Terminal Through February for Black History Month
ORLANDO, FL — A visual history of daring aviatrix Bessie Coleman (1892-1926) is on display through February on the Third Level of the Main Terminal of Orlando International Airport, in honor of her accomplishments for Black History Month. The text panels chronicle the brief but impactful life and accomplishments of Coleman, who was the first African-American woman and first Native American to hold an international pilot’s license, issued from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in France on June 15, 1921. Vintage photographs of Coleman are on exhibit with text panels that tell her history, including the lesser-known short chapter spent in Orlando.
THE ORLANDO LEGACY
Shortly before the tragic plane accident that took Coleman’s life in 1926, she was living in Orlando with the Rev. Hezekiah Keith Hill and his wife, Viola Tillinghast Hill. She became close to the couple and stayed with them at the parsonage of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Institutional Church. Mrs. Hill encouraged Bessie to open a beauty shop in Orlando to supplement her income to save money to buy a plane, so she could perform her “barnstorming” stunts at one-woman air shows around the country. Their home on tree-lined Washington Street became the center of her life. After her accident, 5,000 mourners attended a memorial service for her in Orlando. It was only fitting that West Washington Street was officially designated “Bessie Coleman Street” by the Florida Legislature in 2014, and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority named its executive conference room for the aviation pioneer.
The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority is proud to operate Orlando International Airport (MCO) and Orlando Executive Airport (ORL), two of Florida’s premier air travel gateways. MCO is a world-class global connector, serving approximately 50 million annual passengers. The recently opened Terminal C is a next level facility that will add 10-12 million annual passengers of capacity and elevate the customer experience. ORL is conveniently located just miles from downtown Orlando and provides vital general aviation access to the heart of the region.