Janet Harmon Bragg was born in Griffin, Georgia on March 24, 1907. She died in blue Island, Illinois on April 11, 1993, after living in both Chicago, Illinois and Tucson, Arizona for many years.
In 1943, Mrs. Bragg was the first African American woman to receive a commercial pilot’s license. Repeatedly denied opportunities and licensure not based on her lack of education, skills, or ability, but because of her gender and race, Mrs. Bragg nevertheless persevered and excelled in several professions and vocations.
As a young girl, Janet Harmon was educated in segregated schools in Griffin and in Fort Valley at the Fort Valley high and Industrial School. After high school graduation, she attended Spelman Seminary where she studied nursing. She returned to Griffin and practiced nursing at the Griffin hospital for a brief period. Eventually, Harmon moved to Illinois during the Great Depression. In Chicago, she found nursing jobs and other temporary employment. A stable position as a healthcare inspector for an insurance company provided the opportunity to pursue a childhood dream: to fly. This steady income financed her aeronautic education, purchase of eventually three aircraft, and allowed her to support the construction of an airstrip and the industry needs of her fellow flying enthusiasts in the Challenger Air Pilots’ Association.
In her autobiography, Bragg stated that she always enjoyed birdwatching and marveled at the aerodynamics of birds. Living in Chicago, she saw a billboard advertising educational programs at the Aeronautical University, formerly the Curtiss-Wright Flying Services. The billboard read: “Bird can fly, why don’t you?” and evoked her childhood dream. She enrolled in the evening school program in 1933 while working as a Registered Nurse during the day. She earned her private pilot’s license and managed to save enough money to purchase a plane for %500 and, with her fellow students, physically built an airfield in Robbins, Illinois. During World War II she attempted to join the WASPs but was denied because of her race. She attended the Tuskegee African American pilot training initially denied a commercial license because she was female. Persevering, she eventually received her commercial pilot’s license in 1943 in Illinois. Ms. Bragg promoted aviation education in many arenas, including the Civilian Pilot Training Programs at historically black colleges, and was politically active in the promotion of African American aviation education in the US Army Air Corps. She remained an actively licensed pilot for thirty-five years and logged over 2000 flying hours.
Janet Harmon Bragg was enshrined in the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame in the year 2000 when her adoptive state recognized her accomplishments. Honored in 1985 by the Bishop Wright Aviation Industry award, she received a certificate of appreciation from the U.S. Department of Transportation, honors from the Federal Aviation Administration, and recognition by the Women in Aviation International organization as one of the one hundred most influential women in the Aviation and Aerospace industry. Janet Harmon Bragg, a Georgia native, a female aviation pioneer, and a trailblazer for future pilots, is inspiring as one of Georgia’s aviation greats.
Captain Donnie L. Cochran’s significant Naval Aviation Achievements and national honor:
In September 1985, after a very competitive selection process, Captain Cochran was selected as the first African American pilot to fly with the United States Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, The Blue Angels in their 40-year history. In 1986 Captain Cochran flew the number three jet and was the last blue Angels team to fly the A-4F Skyhawk. In 1987, Captain Cochran flew the number three jet, and was the first Blue Angel team to fly the F-18 in a blue Angels airshow. In 1988, Captain Cochran transitioned to the slot pilot position flying the number four jet.
Following the completion of his tour as a Blue Angels Pilot, Captain Cochran was recognized by Career Communications Group as the 1989 Black Engineer of the Year. This extraordinary achievement recognized the significant contributions Captain Cochran made as a Blue Angels Pilot and to the Engineering field. In addition, Captain Cochran distinguished performance and highly visible position inspired a whole generation of pilots and engineers for what is possible through maintaining a positive and engaging attitude, a character that is second to none, dedication and enthusiasm for what you desire in life.
In August 1994, Captain Cochran was again selected as the first African American commanding officer and Flight Leader for the United States Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, The Blue Angels. Captain Cochran had the unique honor of flying three of the six flying positions as a Blue Angels pilot and flight leader. Captain Cochran made significant contributions to the United States Navy, United States Armed Forces Recruiting and by inspiring pride and honor in the citizens of the Country by flying over three hundred fifty airshows and practice airshows throughout the United States and Canada.
On August 25, 2015, Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal renamed the recently closed Pelham Detention Center to the Donnie Cochran Community Center in honor of Captain Cochran’s extraordinary contributions to Naval Aviation and to the Country in his hometown of Pelham, Georgia. Captain Cochran was also honored for his significant achievement in his military career the honor of being in the Class of 2016 Military Veteran Hall of Fame.
Patrick J. Finneran, Jr. Lt. Col, USMC (Ret) is the President of Accelerated Performance Solutions LLC, a management consulting company in Newnan Georgia. He also serves as a director of JURA LLC a private holding company. As a proud resident of Georgia since 2012, he is also active in the Coweta County Chamber of Commerce, an instructor in West Georgia University’s continuing education program, and a member of St. George Parish finance council. He is married to Dr. Pamela Johnson who has been a resident of Newnan since 1995 and who is the majority owner of Dogwood Veterinary Hospital and Laser Center.
Pat’s love for aviation began as a child in Pensacola Florida watching the Blue Angels perform. His dream of flying came true as a college student in the Naval ROTC where he qualified for the Navy’s Flight Indoctrination Program and was presented the North American Aviator Award as the top student in 1967.
Following his commission in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1967 and his completion of basic infantry officer training he was selected for the Naval Aviation Training Command and received his wings as a Naval Flight Officer in June 1969 as the class honor man. In June 1970 he was assigned to Marine All Weather Attack Squadron 225, First Marine Aircraft Wing , Republic of Vietnam for combat operations in Vietnam and Laos. Pat flew 80 missions for 125 combat hours in the A6 Intruder and UH1E helicopter. He ended his combat tour with the 3rd Marine Amphibious Brigade as the Aide de Camp to the commanding General.
Following Vietnam, Pat served as a flight instructor at NAS Pensacola Florida where he was selected as the instructor of the year in 1973. He then served in a variety of operational and staff positions. During his career he had five operational overseas deployments. He was an honor graduate of the Marine Corps Basic School and the Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School. He was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Command and Staff College and is a graduate of the National War College. Pat has over 2000 accident free hours in 15 different military aircraft including the TAV8B Harrier and the Royal Norwegian F16B. Pat retired from the Marine Corps in 1987 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. His military decorations include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service medal with Gold Star, Air Medal, Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V and Gold Star, Navy Achievement Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and Navy Arctic Service Ribbon.
In July 2009 Pat became President and CEO of Sabreliner Corporation which specialized in the maintenance, modification and overhaul of military and commercial aircraft. Prior to going to Sabreliner, Pat was a senior executive of the Boeing Company. He held various leadership positions including President of Boeing Support Systems, a $7 billion business unit that provided a full spectrum of services to the US Military and our allies. Prior to that Pat was responsible for all Naval Aviation Programs at Boeing and Vice President General manager of F/A 18 Programs.
In 1999 his team was awarded the Collier Trophy for the successful development and testing of the F/A 18 E/F Super Hornet which was completed on time and under budget. Pat was an elected officer of the McDonnell Douglas Corporation prior to the merger with Boeing. His responsibilities included leading every tactical aircraft program in McDonnell Aircraft Company.
Pat holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, a Masters Degree from East Carolina and a Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering (Honoris Causa) from the University of Notre Dame. In 2004 he was awarded the Navy League’s Prestigious Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz Award for major contributions to the American Maritime Strength and National Security. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award of the Mendoza School of Business at the University of Notre Dame.
In 2006 he was honored by the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation with the Most Distinguished American Award and in 2013 was awarded the Reverend William Corby Award for significant contributions to the United States by the University of Notre Dame.
He is the Chairman Emeritus of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, Director of the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation and past Co-Chairman of the St. Louis County Fair and Air Show. He has published articles in the Naval Institute Proceedings and Air University Review. He has also presented papers at the College of Performance Management and the Department of Energy Program Manager Conference.