• Photo slideshow: The dedication of Alfonza W. Davis Middle School.
* * *
Growing up, Carmen Davis Anderson simply knew him as “Uncle Al,” the man in an 8x10 picture frame wearing a serious face and a military uniform.
“We just knew that he was a pilot and that was supposed to be something special,” Anderson said of Capt. Alfonza W. Davis.
It wasn't until later in life she found out her uncle was the first black Omahan to earn fighter pilot wings at Tuskegee Army Air Field. As she got older, she also learned why she had never met her father's brother: His plane disappeared in Italy on Oct. 29, 1944.
Some Omaha youngsters will learn about Davis much earlier. Friday evening, the Omaha Public Schools formally dedicated Alfonza W. Davis Middle School near 132nd and State Streets.
Anderson, her sister, seven other family members — including two great, great nieces and a great, great nephew of Davis' — and about 450 others attended the ceremony in the school's gym.
“This is the first chance for our family to memorialize our uncle,” Arnetta Cruz, a great niece of Davis', told the crowd.
She and her other relatives live in Los Angeles and paid their way to attend the dedication.
“I don't know anybody who had a relative who had a school named after them,” Anderson said in an interview.
Alfonza W. Davis was born in Pensacola, Fla., in August 1919 before his family moved to Omaha shortly thereafter. He attended OPS and graduated valedictorian from the now-closed Omaha Technical High School in March 1937.
Friday evening, Davis also was inducted into the Tech High hall of fame.
After high school, he attended Omaha University, now the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and Creighton University.
Davis was 25 when he died. He received the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Unit Citation.
The school named after him will open Aug. 14 to about 400 sixth- and seventh-graders.
Eighth-graders will go there next fall. The school sits in the northwest corner of the district.
OPS also will open Gateway Elementary School in South Omaha this month.
Davis Anderson, one of two of Davis' nieces who attended the ceremony, sees the school as his legacy. Davis and his late wife, Berdyne Anderson, had no children.
“It's allowing his name to live on, even though he didn't,” Davis Anderson said.