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Louis Rayfield Purnell, Sr. (April 5, 1920 – August 10, 2001) was a noted curator at the National Air and Space Museum and earlier in life, a decorated Tuskegee Airman. At the museum, he became expert in space flight artifacts, particularly spacesuits, and was instrumental in curating artifacts related to space exploration, during the 1960s and into the 1980s. Purnell was the first African-American to become a curator at the Smithsonian Institution. As a captain in the Army Air Corps and a fighter pilot, he served in the European and North African theater during World War II. For his service during the war, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters.

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  • Louis Purnell
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  • Louis Rayfield Purnell, Sr. (April 5, 1920 – August 10, 2001) was a noted curator at the National Air and Space Museum and earlier in life, a decorated Tuskegee Airman. At the museum, he became expert in space flight artifacts, particularly spacesuits, and was instrumental in curating artifacts related to space exploration, during the 1960s and into the 1980s. Purnell was the first African-American to become a curator at the Smithsonian Institution. As a captain in the Army Air Corps and a fighter pilot, he served in the European and North African theater during World War II. For his service during the war, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters.
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  • Louis Purnell
  • Louis Rayfield Purnell, Sr.
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  • Curator at the National Air and Space Museum, decorated Tuskegee Airman during World War II.
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  • Louis
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  • Purnell
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