CAPT Robert “Bobby” Charles Wilks: 1931-2009

Today, funeral services were held for a historical luminary in the U.S. Coast Guard, retired Captain Robert “Bobby” Charles Wilks. Captain Wilks was a trailblazer making history as the first African American Coast Guard aviator, the first African American to reach the rank of captain in the Coast Guard and the first African American to command a Coast Guard air station. He retired in 1986 after 30 years of service in the Coast Guard. Throughout his long and distinguished aviation career, he accumulated over 6,000 flight hours in 18 different types of aircraft.

Among his numerous awards is the Air Medal, earned for initiative, foresight and aeronautical skill while attempting to rendezvous with a Russian vessel 120 miles east of Hilo, Hawaii, in heavy weather. His courage, sound judgment and unwavering devotion to duty culminated in the safe medical evacuation of the stricken master, thus saving the man’s life. Additionally, Captain Wilks was awarded the Helicopter Rescue Award with the “Winged S” Air Rescue emblem twice for courage and skill while piloting a Sikorsky helicopter in air rescue missions. Other personal awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Coast Guard Commendation Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and National Defense Medal, as well as the Republic of Vietnam Campaign and Vietnam Service Medals.

This article in the Meridian, the magazine of the National Naval Officers Association (NNOA), provides an excellent summary of Captain Wilks’ distinguished accomplishments.

Captain Wilks most certainly leaves a tremendous legacy and will long be remembered for his exceptional service as a outstanding leader and aviator.

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