"Life must be lived and curiosity kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life."
Rixie McCarroll, born June 18, 1921, lived a long life, earmarked by curiosity and overcoming. He was the fourth of five children born to the union of the late Lucy and Martin McCarroll in Winona, Mississippi. The family moved to Northwest Indiana when Rixie was six months old; first to East Chicago and then to Gary. All the McCarroll children attended elementary through high school at Roosevelt. Rixie received both an academic and a vocational drafting diploma in June 1939. After high school, it was difficult to secure a job in the Gary area, so Rixie went to Portland, Indiana, over 150 miles away to join the Soil Conservation Service, digging drainage systems, earning $30 a month of which he sent $23 home to his mother. A few months later he became part of the Civilian Conservation Corps, where he learned surveying skills to complete profile drawings and to estimate soil excavation and replacement. In 1940, as the clouds of World War II began forming, Rixie found work at US Steel and then a civil service position with the Army Map Service in Detroit. He was a topographical draftsman changing aerial photographs into maps. He was the only African American on a six-person team. When the five whites were promoted and he was not, the excuse he was given was that whites would not work for a Black man. He gave his 30 day notice. September 1942 marked two high points of Rixie's life.. On September 19, 1942, he married his high school sweetheart, Gloria L. Cummings. To this union were born two daughters, Gloria Jeanne and Rixette McCarroll. During their 48 year marriage, they were helpmates to each other until Gloria's passing in 1990. Also in September 1942, Rixie volunteered for the Army Air Corps, where he passed all tests to join the Air Corps. However, he was denied this opportunity and was placed in the Army Reserve because discriminatory practices would not allow Blacks and Whites to be trained together. Continuing his life theme of hard work, Rixie drove a bus for the Detroit Bus Service while waiting for his next opportunity. It came in March 1943, when he received orders to report to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi for induction into the Army Air Corps. However, to get to Biloxi, Rixie had to pay his own way to ride a segregated train and carried fried chicken that his mother prepared because Blacks could not eat in the dining car. Three weeks after arriving in Biloxi, he was trucked to Tuskegee Institute. In March 1944, Rixie McCarroll earned his wings. He was now a single engine P-40 Warhawk pilot, a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, and a True Tuskegee Airman. In June 1944, Rixie was involved in a plane accident in Waterloo Army Airfield , SC. Although he was exonerated, this racially charged incident prevented Rixie from going to Europe with the Tuskegee Airmen. While this was not Rixie's vision, God had a better plan. He was honorably discharged in October 1944 and returned to Gary. Rixie continued to pursue his education at Illinois Institute of Technology using the G.I. Bill during 1944 an into 1945. He took night classes at Gary City College while working at the Tube Mill and American Bridge Works from 1946 to 1950. His commitment to continuous education was exhibited through his strong math and science abilities, as well as his methodical approach to problem solving. In 1950, Rixie began his career in the Gary Fire Department. He rose steadily from Private in 1950 to Engineer, to Captain, to Battalion Chief, to Assistant City Chief, to City Fire Chief in 1970. He retired from the Gary Fire Department in 1978, as the second Black Fire Chief in Gary's history. True to his hard work ethic and continuous quest for knowledge, Rixie attended evening classes at Purdue Calumet, worked as a fireman, and concurrently worked as a construction estimator/draftsman for Powers Construction, which became Winters and Powers Construction and was Powers and Sons Construction when he retired in 1990. Rixie had great admiration and respect for Mamon Powers, Sr., and through the years Rixie remained proud of the success of this Black owned business. A member of St. Timothy Community Church for over 50 years, Rixie participated in the June Birthday Club and the Goldtymers. He was known as being concerned and vocal about church affairs. He enjoyed pinochle, dominoes, bridge, golf, cooking, yardwork, and all things aeronautical. Rixie battled his vision difficulties with courage, tenacity, and grace. After his vision began to fail, he enjoyed listening to animal shows, crime documentaries and anything about aviation. Rixie McCarroll's life story was reflective of African American history; he overcame racism, achieved despite the odds, and demonstrated a lifelong hard work ethic. Rixie was preceded in death by his wife, Gloria Cummings McCarroll, daughter, Gloria-Jeanne McCarroll Davis, parents, Martin and Lucy McCarroll, brother, Davis McCarroll, sisters, Beatrice McClain, and Frances McCarroll. He leaves to cherish his memory, loving, dedicated daughter, Rixette McCarroll, grandsons, Doug Davis of Aurora, IL, and Rixie (Telisa) Davis of Shorewood, IL., great-grandchildren, Rixie Davis, Jr., and Ryanne Davis of Shorewood, IL, sister, Irma Orr, of Gary, IN son-in-law, Wilbert Davis of Florissant, MO, sister-in-law, Geraldine Cummings of Gary, IN cousins, Helen Rogers of Merrillville, IN, Mary Floyd and Alma Washington of Chicago, IL., and a host of relatives and dear friends.
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