WASHINGTON, DC – Last night on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, highlighted bipartisan legislation he has introduced with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to name the Avondale Cincinnati Post Office for two Ohio World War II aviators, John H. Leahr and Herbert M. Heilbrun. The legislation advanced out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last week. This bipartisan legislation has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives and was introduced in the House by Congressmen Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) and co-sponsored by the entire Ohio delegation.
A transcript of his remarks can be found below and a video can be found here.
“Mr. President, I’m pleased to come to the Senate floor today to speak in support of a bill sponsored by the entire Ohio delegation naming the post office in Avondale of Cincinnati, Ohio, for two World War II aviators, John Leahr and Herbert Heilbrun. These two remarkable men, one black and one white, grew up in Avondale, which is a neighborhood that is part of Cincinnati, Ohio.
“They dreamed of flying and signed up for the Army Air Corps. After Pearl Harbor, John Leahr flew the P-51 Mustang with the Tuskegee Airmen and Herb Heilbrun flew the B-17 bomber. The Tuskegee fighters were assigned to protect the bombers in the European theater. John and Herb worked together on some of the same missions, but as World War II airmen, they were segregated and did not interact.
“They didn’t get to know each other until more than 50 years after the war ended. In 1997, Herb Heilbrun discovered that an event for the Tuskegee Airmen was going to be held in downtown Cincinnati. He decided to stop by and thank the fighter pilots who have helped protect him and his bomber and his bomber squad in Europe. There, Herb met John Leahr, and the two men hit it off and discovered how much they had in common.
“They found out they had both grown up in Avondale. Both spent time waiting for training, working at the same engine plant, Wright Aeronautical in Lockland, Ohio. They realized they had been in the same third grade class at North Avondale Elementary School. Luckily, Herb had saved the class picture, and there you can see them standing right next to each other, John and Herb.
“Their friendship was obviously meant to be. John Leahr had long wanted to make sure that young people knew about the Tuskegee Airmen and their contributions during the war. Together, John and Herb shared their story with schoolchildren and adults, talking about how things were different in the past and promoting racial understanding and the rejection of bigotry today.
“Here they are with a group of young people, Herb and John, with models of the airplanes that they flew. The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations honored them for their work in 2003. And in 2007, there was a book, Black and White American Airmen: Their True History, and it recounts their story.
“John died in 2015 at the age of 94. Herb died in 2020 at 100 years old, I believe naming this post office in their neighborhood for John Leahr and Herb Heilbrun is a fitting way to honor the memory of this team who served our country with bravery and distinction in World War II, but then continued an important part of their public service long after their military service ended. My hope is that this legislation will be passed by the Senate on a bipartisan basis, and we can name this post office after these two remarkable men.”