Continental Honors Its First Black Pilot

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

Continental Airlines has taken a step to recognize Marlon Green, now deceased, as an aviation pioneer whose career was almost snuffed out, completely, because of prejudice. With 3,000 hours of multi-engine time earned in the Air Force, Green sought to become an airline pilot beginning in 1957, but was turned away from all prospects until a 1963 Supreme Court ruling based on Green's case forced the airlines not to discriminate. That ruling was followed in 1964 by passage of the Civil Rights Act, and in 1965 by what would become Captain Marlon Green's 14 -year career with Continental Airlines. In a Houston ceremony held Tuesday, Continental rolled out the airline's latest Boeing 737 and showed Green's name clearly painted on the aircraft's nose. In his comments, current Continental Chief Executive Jeff Smisek lamented, "We turned him down for one reason and one reason only -- because of the color of his skin." Smisek added, "... there is part of Continental's history of which I'm not proud. That happened over 50 years ago." Tuesday, Smisek recognized Captain Green as "a pioneer who was willing to challenge the unacceptable status quo of the time and paved the way for the most qualified applicants to be hired, regardless of the color of their skin." Green passed away last year, at the age of 80. But his brother was in attendance.

Quoted by the Houston Chronicle, Captain Green's brother, Jim, said "he's looking down from heaven and saying well done. ... A little bit late, but well done." Green had first been granted an interview with Continental after declining to note his race on his application. When the airline later refused to hire him and instead hired less qualified applicants, they also gave Green the basis for his legal challenge. Today, Continental employs some 4,310 pilots. According to Cleveland.com, 6 percent of those are minorities.