The Cook Library Art Gallery is currently displaying “Red Tails: 332nd Fighter Group, Ramitelli, Italy, W.W.II.,” by local artist Clinard “Clint” Martin. The paintings will be on display daily from Oct. 13 to 28. The display is open to the public.
The artist’s paintings commemorate the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African- American military aviators in the United States armed forces. The men were known as the “Red Tails” for the red paint on the backs of their planes, which flew over 15,000 combat missions during World War II. Martin’s paintings illustrate the events of these men’s battle experiences, carefully illustrating the many battles in which they flew, honoring their notable service to America.
Clint Martin was born in 1939 in McComb, Mississippi. He became interested in the Tuskegee Airmen, who came from Martin’s hometown, at a young age.
“These guys are my heroes,” Martin said. “I like to call them men of color. Some are well into their 90s, and some even visited Southern Miss about three years ago to see some portraits.”
He became the historian/ consultant for HBO’s movie “Tuskegee Airmen,” which features permanent displays nationwide of model aircrafts flown by the airmen.
“A lot of the scenes in the movie, it was captivated in the art that I do,” Martin said. “Each portrait is based on an actual mission that the men flew.”
Although it took Martin’s paintings nearly 60 years to be recognized, they are featured in museums and government and military locations all across the country. His art is featured at renowned locations such as the Smithsonian, Pentagon, D-Day Museum, McComb Library, Moton Field and the State Capitol of Mississippi.
Martin has many stories to tell about other black airmen and is impassioned to enlighten others with their stories.
“If I am called upon to tell their story, I will willingly do so,” he said.
The state of Mississippi awarded Martin a proclamation on Jan. 31, 2012, and Lamar County gave him proclamation on Nov. 19, 2012. Martin retired from dentistry in 2001 and relocated to Hattiesburg in 2004 with his wife Madeline.
The Cook Art Gallery is open for display of Martin’s paintings. “I am glad that I was able to help find a good venue on campus and an opening in the gallery schedule to show his work,” said Mark Rigsby,
director of the Museum of Art. Rigsby hopes that since the library is an area of campus that receives high traffic, it will provide suitable visibility for the show.
“Mr. Martin is very serious about his paintings and feels strongly that his work helps tell the story of the Red Tails,” Rigsby said. “I do hope that student groups and organizations across campus will take advantage of the opportunity to view this work.”