Jill Elaine Brown was the first African American woman to be admitted into the U.S. Navy in 1974. Finding military protocols very difficult after six months, Brown left with an honorable discharge.
After reading an article about Warren H. Wheeler, founder of the first African American owned-and-operated airlines, Brown persuaded her way into an interview with Wheeler Airlines. She was then hired as a ticket-counter clerk at Wheeler Airlines headquarters in Durham, North Carolina. Brown eventually worked her way up to become a pilot at Wheeler Airlines, where she logged enough hours to fly for a major airline and became the first female African American pilot for a major U.S. airline – Texas International Airlines.
It was her belief that the airline only hired her because of her race, however, and she left the company after a year to join Zantop International Airlines, a cargo carrier headquartered near Detroit, Michigan. Brown remained at Zantop until 1985.
In 1990 she filed a lawsuit against United Airlines, charging racial and sexual discrimination after being rejected for employment three times. The case was decided in favor of United Airlines. Brown appealed, and it was again decided in favor of the airlines in 1997. Brown now advocates for the rights of African American aviators.
- Van Houten, Matt. 2010. “Brown, Jill E. 1950.” BlackPast.
- Burgen, Michelle 1978. “Winging It at 25,000 Feet: Former teacher has high-flying career as pilot for Texas International Airlines.” Ebony. pp. 58–60, 62.