Baker Center School
311 E. Charlotte Avenue
104′ w x 8.5′ h
Mural Creation Sponsors
In Memory of Dr. JV Cherian
Congregational United Church of Christ
Kelly & Pete Gaylord
The Patterson Foundation
Saint Mary Baptist Church
In Memory of Pastor Isaac Thomas Jr
Community Foundation of Sarasota County
Shively Charitable Foundation
Lt. Col. Scot & Jill Shively
Panel 7 – Military
To listen to an audio presentation of the history captured in this panel, click on this video.
Our local black community has a long history of military service starting with black Union soldiers who settled here right after the Civil War. During WWII, six brothers from one Punta Gorda family enlisted to serve our country. Here’s some of their story.
Archie and Josephine Bailey lived at the corner of East Virginia Avenue and Wood Street with their nine children, 7 boys and 2 girls. Archie initially worked at the Ice Plant for $7.25/week and then became an electrician and plumber, well-known to all for his ability to fix anything. It was a religious household and the family attended the Bethel A.M.E. Church in town.
Josephine and Archie instilled high standards in their children as well as a fight for freedom, a basic right none of them completely enjoyed being raised during the years of segregation. This did not stop the boys from enlisting in the armed forces when needed.
Charles Philip Bailey, the 3rd oldest son, was born on November 25, 1918, in Punta Gorda. He attended Baker Academy, then went to live with a family in Ocala where he graduated from Howard Academy, a high school for black students. He attended Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, one of only a few black institutions of higher learning in the state at the time. While in college, he enlisted in the Army Air Force, and on April 29, 1943, earned his wings and gold second lieutenant’s bars when he graduated from aviation cadet training at Tuskegee Institute, (the premier black college in Alabama) and became what is believed to be the first black aviator from Florida to become a Tuskegee Airman. He shipped out a month later with the 99th Fighter Squadron to take part in the Allied invasion of North Africa.
He is credited with shooting down two Focke-Wulf-190 German fighter planes in his P-40 Warhawk named “Josephine” for his mother, and later in “My Buddy,” a P-51 Mustang named for his father. “At 1425 hours on the afternoon of January 27, 1944, Lt. Bailey caught an FW-190 headed in the general direction of Rome with a 45-degree deflection shot (from his P-40). The pilot was seen to bail out,” stated a 99th Squadron Mission Report.
Another Air Force record indicated “On July 18, 1944, 10 days after Charles started flying a P-51, the 99th Fighter Squadron flew its second combat mission as part of the 15th Air Force. During that flight, Capt. Edward L. Toppings and Lt. Charles P. Bailey destroyed one FW-109 a piece.”
The 99th Fight Squadron is famous for never losing an Allied bomber to enemy fighter planes. Charles was one of only 450 black pilots who saw action during the war. He flew 133 combat missions over enemy territory. Charles and his squadron saw action not just in North Africa but across Europe, including France, Germany and Italy.
Charles received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, the Presidential Unit Citation, and the WWII Victory Medal. He died in 2001 at the age of 82 and was buried with full military honors, including a flyover by four F-15 jet fighters in the “Missing Man Formation.” Five of Charles’ brothers also served in WWII:
Sgt. Maurice M. Bailey entered the Army and served in WWII and Korea. In WWII, he was a member of the “Red Ball Express,” a primarily black unit that kept US frontline troops supplied with fuel, food and ammo in Europe.
E-4 Berlin J. Bailey, Sr. was a member of the US Navy’s 3rd Construction Battalion (Navy Seabee) in the Pacific Theater. He was at Guadalcanal, the scene of one of the major island battles in the South Pacific.
E-5 Harding C. Bailey, Sr. served aboard the Navy’s USS Mason, a destroyer escort. It was the first Navy ship with a predominately Negro crew and served in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. –
Pfc. Paul Bailey was a chaplain’s assistant assigned to the Army’s Company D. 2805th Engineering Battalion in the western Pacific.
Cpl. Arthur J. Bailey was a U.S. Marine and one of the “Montford Point Marines” at Iwo Jima. (To learn more about the Montford Point Marines.
The 7th brother and youngest of all 9 children, Lt. Carl A. Bailey, was too young to enlist during WWII, but served in the Air Force at the end of the Korean War. He was a member of the Integrated US Armed Forces, the only brother to not serve in a segregated unit. He was reportedly the 1st black jet pilot in Florida and was one of two black jet pilots from Florida in the early 1950s who flew F-84 Thunderjets.
The “Fighting Bailey Brothers” have been locally memorialized with the naming of the Punta Gorda Airport passenger terminal as “Bailey Terminal” and the Punta Gorda city park at the corner of MLK Boulevard and East Virginia Avenue named “Bailey Brothers Park”, both in their honor.
Panel 7 of the new Local Black History mural captures Lt. Charles Bailey and his P-51 Mustang “My Buddy.”