WARNER ROBINS, Ga (CNN) His father was born into slavery.
But he would live to have a dogfight with German pilots in the skies over Europe.
Now, Eugene Bullard is being honored for his service with a statue in Warner Robins, Georgia, at the Museum of Aviation.
The museum says he was the world’s first black fighter pilot.
Bullard was actually born in Columbus. But he ran away from home as a child and hid on a ship headed for Scotland, eventually making his way to France and enlisting in the French Foreign Legion during World War I.
At first, he served in the infantry but, according to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, he got hurt and ended up making a $2,000 bet that he could become a military aviator despite his skin color. Clearly, he won!
Bullard earned multiple awards during his military career.
For Bullard’s family, the statue is a reminder of a man– and a life– they’ve always admired.
“The example that he set is it should be a motivational point said being that you could actually be and do whatever you decide you want to do in life and you cannot allow society in itself to oppress you and stop you from doing what you try whatever you choose to do in life,” said family member Kelvin Bullard.
“I am tremendously elated. I can remember as a little boy sitting on my grandmother’s lap and she’s telling me stories about Eugene and i never thought that this would come to pass,” added family member Dr. Willie Chester.
Nearly 2 dozen members of Bullard’s family came out for the unveiling, along with Air Force officers and several surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen.