A Gulfport native is now the Commander of the 186th Air Refueling Wing at Key Field Air National Guard Base in Meridian.
Col. Edward Evans Jr. is a commercial pilot for Southwest Airlines, based out of Dallas, and was promoted to wing commander in May.
Evans graduated from Gulfport High in the 1980s and went on to Mississippi State University, where he earned a degree in engineering. After graduating from MSU, the third-generation airman enlisted in the United States Air Force, following after his uncle and mentor, Sidney Evans Jr., who had served as a commissioned officer. Edward Evans Jr.’s father (Edward Evans Sr.) and grandfather (Sidney Evans Sr.) had completed Air Force careers of 20 and 33 years as non-commissioned officers.
Edward Evans Jr. initially served his country as an engineer. However, his ambition to become a pilot met with opportunity after five years in the Air Force.
“I asked what I needed to do to be more competitive,” he said, after being denied flight training several times.
“When I look back, I am more proud of the struggle,” he said. “I was a civil engineer in the Air Force. I was told ‘no’ several times. The no’s were more of a blessing in disguise. Eventually things worked out.”
Evans Jr. didn’t know it at the time, but he grew up in the same neighborhood — across the street, in fact — as John C. Robinson, known as the Brown Condor, had decades earlier.
Robinson, who graduated from Tuskegee Institute, served as a fighter pilot with the Ethiopian Air Force against fascist Italy in 1935. He would later serve as commander of the Ethiopian Air Force.
Robinson earned the nickname “The Brown Condor” for his daring exploits in the air. Edward Evans Jr. learned of the legendary fighter pilot and his struggle to become a pilot during a conversation he had with his grandmother around the time he was finishing C141 flight training at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas, in the 1990s.