Fund targets Freeman Army Airfield Museum

A new fund at the Community Foundation of Jackson County aims to protect the history and legacy of the Freeman Army Airfield Museum at Freeman Municipal Airport in Seymour.

Annual grants from the Freeman Army Airfield Museum Endowment will help finance the museum’s ongoing operating costs. The fund, established last fall by museum curator and volunteer Larry Bothe of Seymour, will pay its first grant in the spring of 2024.

“I’m creating this fund because I have concerns that at some point in the future, the museum will have difficulty meeting its day-to-day operating expenses,” Bothe, a licensed pilot, said. “Right now, the museum does just fine in that regard with assistance from the Seymour Municipal Airport Authority.”

Grants from the Freeman Army Airfield Museum Endowment will help the museum pull its weight in its future operations — and possible expansion.

“The museum is about out of space in the two buildings it presently occupies, both of which belong to the city of Seymour,” Bothe said. “The museum is going to need to acquire a third building in the not-too-distant future, and the museum will likely have to shoulder the full operating cost. While it is relatively easy to obtain grants for the purpose of acquiring or renovating a building, I am not aware of any charitable source that will fund regular operating expenses. The purpose of my endowment fund is to help fill the future operating expense needs of the museum.”

Bothe is passionate in his work for the museum, its mission and the airport’s history.

“It is important that the history of Freeman Army Airfield survives for future generations,” he said. “Seymour residents need to know about the effort that was made here for a few short years in the early 1940s (training multi-engine pilots during World War II). The only way that will happen is if the museum continues to preserve and display the artifacts and records from that period.”

The airport and the museum have received grants from the foundation over the years, including fall grants to help preserve the history of the Freeman Field Mutiny that many consider instrumental in desegregating the U.S. military after the arrests of 103 Black officers attempting to use the officers club at Freeman Field.

The foundation has been happy to help projects at the museum and is excited for the museum as a result of Bothe’s generosity and foresight in planning to help fund its future operating costs with this new fund.

This is not the first fund established to provide grants to Freeman Field. The foundation established the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Endowment in December 2021 to benefit the upkeep of the memorial statues installed at the airport in October 2022 and to help fund an ongoing educational program revolving around the Freeman Field Mutiny and the civil rights movement.

Individuals and organizations are welcome to contribute to either or both of these two funds. The more gifts that go into the Freeman Army Airfield Museum Endowment and Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Endowment, the larger the annual spring grants will grow. You, too, can help pay it forward with a gift to the fund through our webpage, Click on “Donate Now” and let us know to which fund you’re donating. Or you may send a check to the foundation at P.O. Box 1231, Seymour, IN 47274.

The foundation remains committed to helping our donors and nonprofits meet the challenges that face our community as, together, we build stronger, better tomorrows.

Dan Davis is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Jackson County. He writes a monthly column for The Tribune. The foundation is at 107 Community Drive, Seymour. For information about donating, call 812-523-4483 or send an email to [email protected].