Olympia Fields post office renamed for Tuskegee airman

Tuskegee airman Capt. Robert L. Martin in his uniform. The Olympia Fields post office will be renamed in Martin’s honor. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly)

The U.S. post office in Olympia Fields will soon be renamed for Capt. Robert L. Martin, a decorated Tuskegee airman.

Legislation, authored by U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-2nd) in February, was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Aug. 21. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the renaming legislation on April 30 and the U.S. Senate concurred on Aug. 1. All members of the Illinois congressional delegation co-sponsored the bill.

A member of the World War II Tuskegee Airmen, Martin served as a combat pilot in the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group. On his 64th mission, he was shot down over German-occupied territory and evaded capture for five weeks as he made his way safely across Allied lines. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1945.

For his service, he received several war decorations, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with Six Oak Leaf Cluster and the Purple Heart. In 2007, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush at a ceremony honoring the Tuskegee Airmen.

After the war, he made his home in Chicago and worked as an electrical engineer. He married Odette Ewell; and the couple was married for 68 years and had four children. In 2008, he moved to Olympia Fields where he died in 2018.

“Through his life and career, Capt. Robert L. Martin taught us to pursue excellence and be dedicated to service. Honoring Captain Martin’s life and accomplishments by naming the post office in Olympia Fields is a fitting tribute to this American hero,” said Congresswoman Kelly.

Martin addresses the crowd at a speaking event a few years ago. The Tuskegee airman, who died in 2018, will have the Olympia Fields post office named in his honor. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly)

In the coming weeks, Congresswoman Kelly will be working with the U.S. Postal Service and the Martin family to arrange a renaming ceremony. During August, Kelly held a preliminary planning meeting with one of Captain Martin’s daughters, Dominique.

The news is being celebrated outside of Illinois as well. Tuskegee University President Lily McNair said, “starting in the early 1940s, Tuskegee University was at the forefront of helping prepare young African-American pilots to fight for freedom in the skies. More than three-quarters of a century later, we applaud Congresswoman Kelly’s efforts to ensuring their legacy of valor and patriotism endures. Their story of serving our country and overcoming obstacles is an inspiration for us all.”