FedEx memorializes its first African-American pilot

FedEx memorializes its first African-American pilot
Captain Carroll Waters (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Captain Carroll Waters (Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - FedEx held a Final Flight Ceremony on Thursday honoring the global shipping company's first African-American pilot.

"It's kind of surreal," Glenn Waters said about his dad, Captain Carroll Waters Sr., who became a FedEx pilot in 1973.

Carroll Waters died at 78 years old. His ashes will be sent to his final resting place in Virginia.His youngest son explained his father's motto "the sky isn't the limit."

"Obviously, you're going to have obstacles," his son said. "You just have to keep trying. He used to tell me all the time, 'Shoulders back.'"

Waters first took to the skies as a combat pilot and a student of original member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

Before becoming a FedEx pilot, he earned a Bronze Star, Air, and National Defense Service medals.
 
On January 1 of that year, Waters told FedEx founder Fred Smith by phone, "I'm a black pilot and I'm looking for a job."
 
Smith's response was, "When can you get here?"

Waters became employee number 373, the third of the fledgling company's three pilots.

"It was a struggle for him during the 70s to get a job as an airline pilot. He was given the opportunity at FedEx," said FedEx 777 Captain Albert Glenn. "He made sure that he took time and effort to help others get jobs as well."

Waters took Captain Glenn under his wing in 1975.

"He says, 'You want to be a pilot? You want to live in America like it is, you need to have faith, you need to have perseverance, you need to have patience, you need to be professional,'" said Glenn.
 
Shortly before his death, Waters spoke at an event and remembered a time when he carried only 20 packages on his first flight.

Waters left a mark on everyone he met.

Jim Bowman, vice president of FedEx Flight Operations, said, "He was just quiet and unassuming, but still, you could tell he required the command and authority and accountability from you."

Glenn says FedEx couldn't have chosen a more fitting goodbye: a ceremony before Waters' ashes took flight home to Virginia.

"Allowing Carroll to have his last flight through Memphis, which is something he did many many times and to have his final flight home be aboard a FedEx flight," added Glenn.
 
After 23 years at FedEx, Waters retired in 1996.

A memorial service will be held Saturday at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Wilcomico, Virginia where all attending pilots will wear
uniforms.
 
FedEx says, at this time, 129 of its 4,200 pilots are African-American.

Copyright 2015 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.