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Hayes Park Dedication Sunday

Thu, 10/21/2021 - 10:13

East Hampton Town will honor the late Lt. Lee A. Hayes, a member of the 477th Bombardment Group of the Tuskegee Airmen, on Sunday when the Amagansett Youth Park is formally renamed for him.

A new sign for the Lt. Lee A. Hayes Youth Park will be unveiled at noon at the park, at the corner of Town Lane and Abraham’s Path. Members of Mr. Hayes’s extended family are expected to attend the unveiling. The public has been invited as well.

Lieutenant Hayes was among a group of precedent-setting Black soldiers at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama who passed rigorous tests to become pilots in the then-segregated armed forces. He was drafted into the Army in 1943 and was working as an instructor in the camouflage school when he learned that the Army planned to begin training Black pilots and navigators. As a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military aviators in the country, he trained as a bomber pilot with the 477th Bombardment Group and helped break the military’s color barrier.

Following his service, he encountered the color barrier once again when he unsuccessfully sought work as a commercial airline pilot. He worked as a custodian at Brookhaven National Laboratory and, with his brothers, as a carpenter.

Lieutenant Hayes’s family moved here from Virginia when he was a child. The oldest of 13 children, he attended the Amagansett School and East Hampton High School. A charter member of Calvary Baptist Church and a Democratic committeeman in East Hampton during the Judith Hope administration, he advocated for the hiring of the first African-American poll watcher and the first Black postal service employee in East Hampton.

The Hayes family settled in the Town Lane area of East Hampton, not far from the Youth Park. Mr. Hayes died there in 2013 at age 91.

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