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Mr. Thomas Oxendine

                                         Arlington, Virginia
     Mr. Thomas Oxendine died on Thursday, May 27 at his home in Arlington, Virginia, after an extended illness.  “Tom” was a native of Pembroke and was born on December 23, 1922, the son of the late Thomas H. Oxendine and Georgia Rae Maynor Oxendine.  Tom is preceded in death by a son:  William and a brother:  Earl Hughes.
Tom is survived by his wife of 54 years, Elizabeth Moody Oxendine; two sons:  Thomas of Lexington, VA and Robert and wife Selene of Tampa, FL; four brothers:  Robert of Lyman, SC Louis of Pembroke, Joe of Pinehurst and Ray of Maxton; two sisters:  Magnolia Lowry of Pembroke and Ruth Hurnevich of Haxel Park, MI; and four grandchildren:  Somerlyn, Sarelle, Seneca, and Raleigh. 
While growing up in Pembroke, Tom attended the local public schools, and later Pembroke State College (now The University of North Carolina at Pembroke) from which he graduated.  He was a star in three sports at both the high school and college levels.
Soon after the start of World War II, Tom enlisted in the U.S. Naval Air Corps in January 1942 and was widely acclaimed as the Nation’s first American Indian to complete the Navy Flight School.  He then served as a fighter pilot and flight instructor during WW II, the Korean War and the Vietnamese War.
As a naval pilot, Tom took part in 33 battles during WW II and received numerous awards and medals.  In 2003 Tom was recognized by the North Carolina Museum of History as one of the state’s “Pioneers in Aviation.”  A citation from that program states, in part:  “Oxendine was assigned as a scout observation pilot abroad the USS Mobile.  On July 26, 1944, he landed his seaplane in the midst of Japanese gunfire, in adverse weather, to rescue a downed fellow airman.  For this, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross.  During his Navy career, he test-piloted carrier-type aircraft and was a combat flight instructor for the supersonic F8V Crusader.”  While stationed on the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier, Tom recorded 177 landings on that vessel.
Tom is listed (with photograph and description) as one of 28 “Famous Tar Heels” in a textbook entitled:  North Carolina:  Social Studies for a Changing World.  This book, published by McGraw Hill in 1993, was a required text for fourth grade students throughout North Carolina.
During the 1950s and 1960s Tom achieved “super-hero” status to his family and others in Robeson County.  Throughout that period he maintained regular contact with his community, frequently making his trademark “flyovers” with Navy jet fighter planes.  This was his way of serenading the community, and it gave us all a thrill.
After 29 years as a Naval Officer, Tom retired and assumed the position as Chief of Public Affairs for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., a position he held for 16 years.  For the past 15 years he has served as consultant for American Indians and Alaska Natives with EOP Group in Washington, D.C.
Tom was granted the first “Distinguished Alumnus” award by UNC Pembroke in 1967 and was inducted into the University’s first “Athletic Hall of Fame” class in 1980.
Funeral services will be held at the Pembroke Berea Baptist Church on Monday, May 31, 2010 at 2:30 p.m., followed by burial at the Sandcutt Cemetery.  Family visitation will be at Locklear and Son Funeral Home on Sunday, May, 30, 2010 7-9 p.m.
In Lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to the Tom Oxendine Scholarship in American Indian Studies, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.


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