Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship (Detroit ACE) Issues Open Call for Artist To Create Statue Honoring late Tuskegee Airmen Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson


Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship (Detroit ACE) Issues Open Call for Artist To Create Statue Honoring late Tuskegee Airmen Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson

  • Statue Will Anchor Jefferson Plaza at Rouge Park
  • Statue made possible by Cynthia and Edsel B. Ford II on behalf of the Henry Ford II Fund
Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson

DETROIT _ The Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship (Detroit ACE) has issued an open call for an artist to create a statue honoring the late Lt. Col.  Alexander Jefferson, whose service as a Tuskegee Airmen helped win World War II. He died in June at age 100.

The statue, made possible by the generosity of Cynthia and Edsel B. Ford II on behalf of the Henry Ford II Fund, will anchor the new Jefferson Plaza at Rouge Park where Jefferson flew model airplanes as a boy.

The City dedicated the plaza site last November on Jefferson’s 100th birthday. He was feted by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, City of Detroit Historian Jamon Jordan and fellow Tuskegee Airmen. He also received the Key to the City from City Corporation Counsel Conrad Mallett. Detroit ACE has hired Michigan Recreational Construction to build the plaza. The sculpture is expected to be unveiled on Lt. Col. Jefferson’s 101st Birthday on November 15.

Jefferson’s flying unit, called Red Tails for the colors on their plane tails, escorted bombers into action in Europe – and lost so few planes that bombers requested them for flying runs. Jefferson and the Tuskegee Airmen overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II. They set the stage for civil rights advocates to continue the struggle to end racial discrimination during the Civil Rights Movement.

Jefferson Field, which was named for the airman years ago, is currently used and maintained by the Detroit Aero Modelers who fly model airplanes there.

Detroit ACE, in partnership with the General Services Department (GSD) and the Department of Public Works, hopes to create a welcoming public space for youth and families to honor one of the most decorated soldiers from World War II and his enduring contributions to Detroit and America and inspire youth to become pilots.

The plaza project is among many Detroit ACE is undertaking to better connect artists with Detroit communities and to improve the look of neighborhoods across the city as part of Mayor Mike Duggan’s Blight to Beauty initiative.

Artists interested in applying should send a packet to Detroit [email protected] with the following required information:

  • Name, address and phone number
  • Examples of past work, whether it still exists or not, and where past work is /was located.
  • Two references from previous public art clients
  • An artist statement explaining why he/she or they should be chosen.

The Artist Statement should list all needed materials, resume and answers to the following questions:

  • What interests you about the project?
  • What are your preliminary ideas for the project?
  • What is your experience working on complex projects and meeting deadline constraints?
  • o How would your project benefit the community?

The application deadline is September 1. A selection committee comprising community members, veterans and members of the Detroit ACE team anticipates choosing an artist by Sept. 10. The statue must be completed by November 10.

Project Schedule

Sept 1              Applications are due from artists to [email protected].

Sept. 7             Two finalists will be introduced at a community session with park stakeholders, veterans and supporters.

Sept. 10           Winning sculptor will be announced and begin work.

Nov. 10           Sculpture to be completed

Nov. 15           Plaza and sculpture to be unveiled on Lt. Col. Jefferson’s 101st Birthday.


The commission for the statue is $70,000, which includes fees, artist’s assistant costs, artist’s studio costs, materials and supplies and installation. 

All questions should be directed to Rochelle Riley at [email protected] or 313 480 5265.


Alexander Jefferson, Lieutenant Colonel USAF Retired, was born in Detroit, Michigan on 15th November,1921. He graduated from Chadsey High School Detroit and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree, Clark College, Atlanta, Georgia: did graduate work in Chemistry, Howard University Washington DC: M.S. of Education; Wayne State University, Detroit.

In January 1944, he graduated from pilot training course at Tuskegee Army Airfield, followed by three months of Combat Training at Selfridge Field, Michigan. He served as a P- 51 fighter pilot with the Red Tails, 332nd Fighter Group, 301st Fighter Squadron in Ramitelli, Italy. He flew 18 long range escort missions.

On August 12, 1944, three days before the invasion of southern France, he was shot down by ground fire while strafing radar stations on the coast. Captured by German troops and interned for nine months as a prisoner of war, he spent the first five months in Stalag Luft III, 80 miles east of Berlin.

On January 29, 1945, when the Russians started their offensive, the prisoners, American, British and French, were transferred to Stalag VIIA, Moosburg, about 20 miles north of Dachau. Liberated by American forces on the 29th of April 1945, Jefferson visited Dachau to witness the results of the atrocities committed by the Nazis.

Jefferson was discharged from active duty in 1947 and retired from the reserves in 1969 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Following the war, he became an elementary science teacher in the Detroit Public Schools. He retired as an assistant principal in 1979. He was an active member of various church, educational and alumni organizations. He was a founder of the Detroit Chapter of the Tuskegee Airman (which is the original chapter) and was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen Speaker Bureau. As a Life Member of the Silver Falcon Association, he served on a voluntary basis as an Admissions Counselor for the U.S. Air Force Academy.


  • Purple Heart
  • Air Medal
  • Air Force Achievement Medal
  • POW medal
  • Air Force Presidential Unit Citation
  • American Defense Service Medal
  • American Campaign Medal
  • European-African-Middle Eastern
  • Campaign Medal
  • World War II Victory Medal
  • National Defense Reserve Medal
  • Armed Forces Reserve Medal
  • Air Force Longevity Service Award
  • Bronze Star
  • Congressional Gold Medal
  • French Knight of the Legion of Honor Medal

On October 14, 1995, Lt. Col. Jefferson was inducted into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame.