Leslie A. Williams, 95, a former member of the Tuskegee Airmen, who broke the military color barrier during World War II, died in California.

Mr. Williams died Monday of natural causes at his home in Patterson, said his daughter Penny Williams.

A native of San Francisco, Mr. Williams was drafted into the Army in 1939 and trained for nine months at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama.

The Tuskegee Airmen were an elite group of African American fighter pilots in the Army Air Corps who trained during the time of government-sanctioned Jim Crow laws.

"In those days, no one had to salute blacks, but we could be court-martialed if we didn't salute a white officer. The discrimination was bad," Mr. Williams recalled during a 2009 interview with KTEH-TV, a public TV station in San Jose.

After leaving the Army, Mr. Williams went on to run a dance studio in San Mateo. When he was 60, he graduated with a law degree from Stanford University, and he went on to practice law for 20 years.

In 2007, Mr. Williams was present at the U.S. Capitol when President George W. Bush presented members of the Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal.
- AP