AURORA | The proverbial trails blazed by John W. Mosley took on many forms: racially intolerant classrooms, football fields and the skies above war zones all became hallmarks of a life spent at the forefront of progress.
The Denver native was the first-ever black player on what is now the Colorado State University football team, and he was one of the first black men trained as a bomber pilot during the Second World War, serving with the famed Tuskegee Airmen before trading in his military service for a life of community leadership in Aurora.
John W. Mosley died Friday, May 22. He was 93.
Retired Lt. Col. John W. Mosley is seen in this Feb. 28, 2011, file photo during a Black History Month luncheon at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora. Mosley gave his account on the trials and tribulations he faced on the road to pursuing his wings and becoming a proud Tuskegee Airman. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Paul Labbe)
John W. Mosley, left, poses with fellow airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group in this September 1944 photo taken at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. (Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library)
John W. Mosley was the first black player for the Colorado State Aggies (now the Rams) in Fort Collins in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy of the Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library)
John was born June 21, 1921. In his teenage years, Mr. Mosley attended Manual High School, where he was both a standout football player and as a student, becoming a National Merit Scholar.
But for all his high school accomplishments, college life was far from easy for Mr. Mosley. He enrolled at Colorado State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now Colorado State University) after graduating from Manual in 1939. As one of only nine black students at the time, Mosley was barred from living in the campus residence halls and denied service at many Fort Collins restaurants.
Despite those obstacles, Mr. Mosley became the first black player to join the college’s football team and earned all-conference honors as a wrestler for the Aggies. He also was elected class vice president in his junior and senior years at A&M, graduating in 1943.
With the Second World War well underway, Mr. Mosley took flying lessons with hopes of being drafted to joined the all-black 99th Fighter Squadron, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen of Alabama. Instead, he was assigned to an artillery unit at Fort Sill, Okla., until a letter-writing campaign prompted his reassignment to Tuskegee, where he trained as a bomber pilot.
Mr. Mosley then traveled across the Atlantic to join the war effort, escorting other aircraft as they flew over enemy territory.
The Tuskegee Airmen flew 15,000 missions over North Africa and Europe during the Second World War. John also would serve as a pilot in the Berlin Airlift after the war, delivering loads of supplies to the Soviet-blockaded sectors of the city.
John later served — in a then-integrated Army Air Force — after being called up from his reserve unit during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
After his service in Europe, Mr. Mosley received a master’s degree from the University of Denver and went to work as a youth coordinator in Kansas City, Mo., for the YMCA.
John and his wife, Edna, moved to Aurora in 1965 when he was transferred to Lowry Air Force Base. In those years, John worked at the regional office for the Department of Health and Human Services. Edna later became an Aurora city councilwoman.
In later years, John and Edna worked to created a non-profit organization to provide scholarships to black high school students to college. Today, the John and Edna Mosley Scholarship Fund is operated by the Denver Foundation,
John was honored in 2004 with a Doctor of Humane Letters from CSU in 2004, and in 2009 he was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
John was preceded in death by a son, John Mosley, Jr., and his wife, Edna, who died in August 2014 at age 89.
John is survived by two sons, Eric and Brian Mosley; a daughter, Edna Lorette Futrell; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Later this year, the Mosleys’ legacy and contributions to the Aurora community will be recognized as their names are enshrined on Aurora Public Schools’ new P-8 school on the APS Community Campus. Classes at the Edna and John W. Mosley P-8 School begin in the fall, where the mascot will be the Red-Tailed Hawk — a reference to Mosley’s Red Tail Squadron of Tuskegee Airmen.
Details on services were not immediately available. In lieu of flowers, that family has asked that memorial contributions may be made to the John and Edna Mosley Scholarship Fund. Visit www.denverfoundation.org for details on how to contribute.