Riots to Renaissance: Cornelius Coffey

Cornelius Coffey

(Source: Robbins History Museum, Harold Hurd Collection)

Cornelius Coffey (1903-1994) was a mild mannered Southerner who migrated to the Midwest in the 1920s. As a teenager, an exhilarating airplane ride with a barnstorming pilot sparked his interest in flying. Coffey later explained that he was initially drawn to aviation because he felt it was a field in which he would not be bound by racial prejudice. Although he was a certified pilot and flight instructor, he was best known for his exceptional skills as an airplane mechanic. Coffey has also been credited as the inventor of the carburetor heat control, which enables planes to fly in cold weather.