Jones, Willie “Suicide”
- Douglas Fleming Roosa
stunt parachutist, was born Willie Jones in either Memphis, Tennessee, or Mississippi to Rebecca Lang of Memphis. Nothing is known about his father or Willie's education. Little is known about Jones's early life, but published reports suggest he began to fly in his teens. Conflicting stories describe his first airborne stunts. According to the Chicago Defender, Jones joined the Orange Flying Circus in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1923, whereas an article published in Ebony magazine reports that Jones began to fly in Saint Louis at the age of fifteen and walked his first wing in 1927 at a Missouri county fair Whatever the truth all accounts agree that Jones took to flying right away exhibiting the fearlessness that all the early stunt flyers had to have to do risky tricks with no safety equipment in the rickety wood canvas and wire World War I surplus Jenny ...
A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.