DANVILLE -- Harold Hoskins, 85, was a member of a generation of black men who stood up to fight fascism abroad and segregation at home.
Hoskins, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, died Tuesday from complications from a fall.
"My father was someone who came from very humble beginnings and was a self-made man," said his daughter, Lynn Hoskins Thompson, of Pleasanton. "He instilled in me, my brother and my children that through education you could do anything."
Hoskins was born in Big Sandy, Texas; his parents died when he was still a boy. He moved to Portland, Ore., to live with an aunt and grew up watching airplanes taking off and landing at an airport there.
He joined the Army in 1945 at age 18 and learned to fly at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. He went on to become an Air Force pilot when the military first began to desegregate.
"He flew many types of airplanes over his career, and he's been all over the world," Thompson said.
After 22 years with the Air Force, Hoskins retired at Travis Air Force Base, but went on to have a long second career at Cal State East Bay, where he worked as an assistant vice president for student services.
He moved from Vallejo to Danville in 1979 to shorten his commute to the university.
"He was very cool, very calm, very charming," said his wife of 16 years, Rose Hoskins. "He was the type of person everyone liked to be around."
Rose Hoskins said her husband frequently spoke at schools in California and Texas about his experiences with the Tuskegee Airmen and as a pilot.
"He wanted young kids to know that if you really believe in something and stick with it, you can achieve your dreams," she said.
Denise Taylor, who works for the nonprofit Operation Reach, organized one of Hoskins' speaking engagements at Greenbrook Elementary School.
Through Hoskins, "the kids learned that black people were a part of the war and part of the fight to rid the world of Adolf Hitler," she said.
In 2007, Hoskins was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. He was active in the Diablo Black Men's Group and assisted in raising thousands of dollars for college scholarships for underprivileged youth. He was also a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Family members said Hoskins was close with his two stepdaughters.
"He strongly encouraged my education," said stepdaughter Tiffeney Cooper, who is a doctoral candidate at Texas Southern University. "Without his support, I don't think I would have gone this far."