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‘He was quite a guy’: Daughter, SA chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen remember Dr. Granville Coggs

Anita Rowell said her father’s death was not a shock. It was clear the vibrant trailblazer started to slip away about a year ago, after she said he never recovered from a battle with pneumonia.

SAN ANTONIO — Wednesday was filled with phone calls, funeral arrangements and interviews for Anita Rowell. But she was able to navigate the day composed. Admittedly a daddy’s girl, it felt like the thing to do.

“What I learned from him was the pursuit of excellence. The importance of achievement,” she said.

Rowell is the daughter of Dr. Granville Coggs. For most of her life, she knew her father as a hard-working physician. 

He had also mentioned being a pilot. Coggs had not told his daughter he was a Tuskegee Airmen. He finally did after the black military aviator started receiving well-earned recognition.

“That’s when he began to shift how he defined himself—from being an award-winning physician and inventor to a Tuskegee Airmen,” she said.

According to Rowell, Coggs knew there were a lot of distinguished doctors. The number of recognized Tuskegee Airmen was different.

“Everything he did was at the top of the tier of what the category was,” she said.

Per Coggs’s bio, he was born to Dr. Tandy Washington Coggs and Nannie Hinkle Coggs of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He graduated from high school in Little Rock, and later went on to train, from 1943 to 1946, at the Tuskegee Army Airfield Class 45G. 

During his time in the U.S. Army Air Corps he was aerial gunner, aerial bombardier and a pilot—all positions that earned him badges.

He graduated from the University of Nebraska before getting his medical degree from the Harvard Medical School in 1953.

“His personality was so large," Rick Sinkfield said. "He could have done anything he wanted to do really."

Sinkfield, president of the San Antonio Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, was friends with Coggs for 20 years. 

“He was just constantly trying to be the best he can be,” Sinkfield said.

Coggs was the first African-American staff physician at Kaiser Hospital in San Francisco in the late '50s, the first head of the Ultrasound Radiology Division at the University of California-San Francisco and established the San Antonio Breast Evaluation Center (it's now a model for other, similar centers across the nation).

Sinkfield said Coggs was one of four surviving Tuskegee Airmen in San Antonio. Three remain alive. All of them, according to Sinkfield, are in their 90s.

“He was quite a guy,” he said.

Rowell said a viewing will be held for her father Friday from 1 p.m. to 9 pm at Porter Loring Mortuary at 1101 McCullough Ave. The funeral is set for 3 p.m. Saturday, while a separate service on a different date will give Coggs military honors at Fort Sam Houston.

Coggs was married to wife Maud. He had a son who preceded him in death. He has two daughters.