From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Chappell, Willa B.

(born: January 22, 1906  -  died: July 18, 1992) 

Willa Brown Chappell was born in Glasgow, KY, the daughter of Hallie Mae and Eric B. Brown. She left Kentucky for Gary, Indiana, and in 1932 graduated from Indiana State Teachers College [now Indiana State University]. She earned her master aviation certificate from Aeronautical University in 1936, her master's degree from Northwestern University in 1938, and her commercial pilot certificate and instructor's rating and radio license from Coffey School of Aeronautics in 1939. Chappell was employed as a school teacher before becoming a pilot: she taught at Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana from 1927-1932. In 1939 she was a federal coordinator of civilian pilot training. Chappell settled in Chicago. She was the first African American woman to become licensed as a pilot in the U.S. and the first African American in the Civil Air Patrol. Chappell founded the National Airmen Association of America and trained more than 200 students who became Tuskegee pilots. She and her husband, Cornelius Coffey, owned and operated the first flight school for African Americans. Chappell was also a political activist: in 1945 she organized the Young Republican Club of the Second Ward of Chicago. She was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for Congress in 1946.

For more see Willa Brown and Willa Brown Chappell, websites created and maintained by the Aviation Museum of Kentucky; the Willa B. Brown entry in the Chicago Negro Almanac and Reference Book, edited by E. R. Rather; and K. Heise, "Willa Chappell, pioneer Black pilot," Chicago Tribune, 07/21/1992, Chicagoland section, p. 9.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Barren County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Glasgow, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Chicago Negro almanac and reference book
NKAA Source: Chicago tribune (newspaper)

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry: Tuskegee Airmen (Kentucky)
NKAA Entry: Chappell, Willa Brown

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Chappell, Willa B.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 28, 2024,

Last modified: 2024-02-12 21:17:35