Hundreds of students joined local dignitaries for the recent dedication of Perry Lindsey Academy, Long Beach’s newest middle school.
Family members of the late Perry W. Lindsey attended the ceremony dedicating the school in the name of the former Tuskegee Airman and first African American principal in Long Beach. Three former Tuskegee Airmen presented a plaque to the school in Lindsey’s honor.
Sutter K-8 School converted to Perry Lindsey Academy this year, serving about 700 students grades six through eight.
“I hope my father will serve as a reminder to students not to get anyone hold them back from achieving greatness,” Perry Lindsey Jr. told an audience who gathered for the May 30 outdoor celebration at the North Long Beach campus.
“This is truly a special occasion,” Gwen Mathews, assistant superintendent for middle and K-8 schools added. “The dedication of a school is a proud moment for any community, but that is especially true here in North Long Beach, where the Long Beach Unified School District is committed, more than ever, to providing equal educational opportunity to every child. This idea of equal opportunity is really what we’re celebrating today. It is an ideal that Perry Lindsey fervently believed in. It is an ideal that drives our work as educators every day. And it is an ideal that will be the guiding light for this outstanding new school.”
Drafted into the United States Army Air Corps, Perry Lindsey Sr. became one of the select few servicemen chosen for an experimental new program to train African-American fighter pilots and crews for dangerous combat missions. This elite group, known as the Tuskegee Airmen, became one of the most highly decorated units of the war.
Lindsey earned his commercial pilot’s license but could not find work in that field due to the prejudicial hiring practices of the time. After teaching in segregated schools in Kansas City, Kansas, Lindsey flew combat missions again in a now desegregated Air Force during the Korean conflict from 1951 to 1953.
Following his service in Korea, Lindsey and his wife, Evelyn, moved to Long Beach. He taught at Eugene Field and Roosevelt elementary schools before becoming vice principal at Roosevelt and Burnett elementary schools.
In 1969, Lindsey became the city’s first African-American principal when he was appointed to the leadership post at College Intermediate School. He later served as principal at Whittier Elementary School. He was also director of compensatory education for the district before retiring in 1987.
Perry Lindsey died in 2004 at the age of 81, leaving a legacy that continues to inspire educators, students and others who value hard work, determination and courage.