Members of Lt. Hayes’s extended family and members of the public attended the unveiling of a sign renaming the Amagansett Youth Park in Mr. Hayes’s honor.
Lieutenant Lee A. Hayes was among a group of precedent-setting Black soldiers at the Tuskegee Army Air Field who passed rigorous tests to become pilots in the then-segregated armed forces.
He was drafted into the Army in 1943 and was working as an instructor in the camouflage school when he learned that the Army planned to begin training Black pilots and navigators. As a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, he trained as a bomber pilot with the 477th Bombardment Group and helped break the U.S. Military’s color barrier.
Following his service, Mr. Hayes encountered the color barrier once again when he sought work, unsuccessfully, as a commercial airline pilot. He worked as a custodian at Brookhaven Lab and, with his brothers, as a carpenter.
Mr. Hayes’s family moved here from Virginia when he was a child. The oldest of 13 children, he attended the Amagansett School and East Hampton High School. A charter member of the Calvary Baptist Church, and a Democratic committeman in East Hampton during the Judith Hope administration, he advocated for the hiring of the first African-American poll watcher, and the first Black U.S. Postal Service employee in East Hampton.
The Hayes family settled in the Town Lane area of East Hampton, not far from the Youth Park, where Mr. Hayes died at home in 2013 at the age of 91.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc with members of Tuskegee Airman Lt. Lee A. Hayes's family at the youth park in Amagansett now bearing his name.