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Retired Kansas lawmaker, Black aviation leader, dies at 98

November 26, 2021 GMT

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Ulysses Lee “Rip” Gooch, who was a leader in the Black aviation industry and Kansas’ oldest serving state senator when he retired at the age of 80, has died.

Gooch, also a former Wichita City Council member, died on Wednesday, according to a post on Jackson Mortuary’s website. He was 98. No cause of death was listed.

The Wichita Eagle reports that he is a member of the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame, is part of the inaugural class of the Black Aviation Hall of Fame in Memphis, and logged around 20,000 hours of flight time over his more than half-century long aviation career.

In the late 1950s, Gooch, who was the son of rural Tennessee sharecroppers, also became the first Black person in Wichita to found and run his own fixed-base aviation operation, which stored and maintained aircraft, offered flight instruction and performed pilot examinations for the Federal Aviation Administration, according to The Eagle’s news archives.

“Rip was a pioneer and warrior who fought tirelessly for civil rights and paved the way for Black leaders in the field of aviation,” the Sedgwick County Democratic Party said in Facebook post.

A memorial is planned for Dec. 18 at the Wichita Aviation Museum.