Alton Yates - Jacksonville
Lieutenant Colonel Alton Yates served from 1955 until 1996 in the United States Air Force, dedicating 31 years of his life to service to this nation and the state.
Colonel Yates's civilian career path includes the U.S. Postal Service, Executive Director of Greater Jacksonville Economic Organization (GJEO) Inc., Jacksonville's Anti-Poverty Agency, and Administrative Aide to Mayor's Tanzler, Godbold, and Hazouri. He's a former member of St. Vincent's Health System Advisory Board. In every role, Yates raised the banner for veterans’ issues, ensuring a seat that the table was carved out for his military brothers and sisters. During his work with Starbase, a Department of Defense program that immerses at-risk youth in an engaging Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) environment. Classes were taught at the 125th Fighter Wing, Jacksonville, where nearly 21,000 students have been educated during the 21 years of existence.
Alton Yates enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on June 16, 1955, and would become the first African American from Jacksonville to be a test pilot. His devotion to duty would lead to national and international acclaim while serving in the U.S. Air Force at the Aeromedical Field Laboratory where he rode high-speed Rocket Sleds and participated in numerous Aerospace Research experiments during the initial days of America's Space Program.
On his way home to Jacksonville after being released from active duty in 1959, he recounted in a 2010 interview with the Jacksonville Times-Union. He saw Ku Klux Klan billboards in Mississippi showing black people hanging from trees. Businesses would let him buy gas, but wouldn't seat him for a meal or let him use the restroom. To avoid further hateful encounters, he decided to buy peanut butter and jelly and ate sandwiches the whole way home. Because of what he experienced on this faithful road trip and recalling all the skills and experiences he learned while in the Air Force, Yates went on to become vice president of NAACP's Youth Council. He helped organize civil rights demonstrations, and in August 1960, ended up in the middle of a civil rights clash that pitted white men with ax handles and baseball bats against unarmed black youths. Yet, another time Yates risked his life - standing up for humans and how they live on Earth.
Disabled veteran Yates never stopped working for his community and fellow veterans. Appointed to the Florida Education Council by Governor Askew. Yates was also a member of Florida Community College at Jacksonville Foundation. Governor Bob Graham would later appoint Yates to FCCJ's board, chairing the board from 1988 through 1990.
Among his many titles, he has served as the City of Jacksonville's Regulatory and Environmental Services Department and managed the Administration for the Community Economic Development Center at FCCJ. He is also a past President of Leadership Jacksonville and the Northeast Florida Safety Council.
Lieutenant Colonel Alton Yates Video Interview