Reilly, Thomas

views updated

Reilly, Thomas

PERSONAL: Male. Education: Northeastern University, M.B.A.

ADDRESSES: Home—1060 14th Ave. N., St. Petersburg, FL 33705.

CAREER: Writer, pilot, aviation consultant, chief financial officer, and museum exhibitor.


(With photographs by Victor Laredo) New York City: A Photographic Portrait, Dover Publications (New York, NY), 1973.


The Tuskegee Airmen, Arcadia (Charleston, SC), 1998.

Wings over Florida, Arcadia (Charleston, SC), 1999.

Mount Dora, Arcadia (Charleston, SC), 2000.

Pan Am, Arcadia (Charleston, SC), 2000.

Key West, Arcadia (Charleston, SC), 2000.

Lakeland, Florida, Arcadia (Charleston, SC), 2001.

Orlando in Vintage Postcards, Florida, Arcadia (Charleston, SC), 2001.

Citrus County, Florida, Arcadia (Charleston, SC), 2001.

Black Knights: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen, Pelican (Gretna, LA), 2001.

Tuskegee Airmen: American Heroes, Pelican (Gretna, LA), 2002.

The Tuskegee Airmen Story, Pelican (Gretna, LA), 2002.

Girls Fly!, Pelican (Gretna, LA), 2003.

Women Who Fly, Pelican (Gretna, LA), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS: Thomas Reilly and his partner, Lynn M. Homan, organize both permanent and traveling exhibitions for museums throughout the country. These exhibits cover a wide variety of subjects, but most focus on aviation, drawing on Reilly's background as a pilot. In addition, Reilly and Homan have coauthored a number of books focusing on the subjects of the exhibits, especially the Tuskegee Airmen.

In Black Knights: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen Reilly and Homan recount the story of the African-American unit of the U.S. Air Force. The culmination of ten years of attempts to allow black Americans to serve in the Air Force, the unit was set up in 1941 and trained at a segregated facility in Tuskegee, Alabama. In its short history, the facility trained almost a thousand black pilots, about 450 of whom flew bombing missions in World War II, and set the stage for the full integration of the armed forces in 1948. "Through interviews with Tuskegee airmen and their families, as well as archival research, Homan and Reilly convey the organizational and personal struggles behind the Tuskegee Experience," explained Booklist reviewer Vanessa Bush. Writing in the Journal of Southern History, Robert J. Jakeman was disappointed that the authors provided citations "sporadically, and moreover, these references are often so sketchy as to be useless." Jakeman also found "troubling errors that undermine its credibility." Even so, Jakeman noted, the book "does provide useful insights into the experiences of the Tuskegee Airmen, especially through its extensive quotations." Reilly and Homan have written two fictionalized treatments of the same subject, The Tuskegee Airmen Story and Tuskegee Airmen: American Heroes, designed to give schoolchildren insight into the lives of the pioneering African American fighter pilots.

Reilly and Homan have also written about the role of women in the history of aviation. Although women have been piloting aircraft almost since the beginning of human flight, they remain in the minority among pilots and young girls considering careers in aviation face certain challenges. In Girls Fly! the authors again use a fictionalized treatment to reach elementary schoolchildren. When young Charlene announces that she wants to be a pilot someday, her brothers laugh at the idea. Through a litany of famed female fliers, from Amelia Earhart to Sally Ride, the authors reveal just how ignorant the brothers' views are.

Reilly and Homan's nonfiction treatment of a similar subject, designed for somewhat older school children, is Women Who Fly. In chapters such as "Pioneers" and "Beyond the Boundaries," the authors reveal the vital role of women in aviation from the earliest daredevil barnstormers to the space-shuttle astronauts of today. The book also reveals the many hurdles women have faced in their struggle to gain experience and respect in a field often dominated by men, despite their long history and numerous contributions. Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan noted that the "lack of source notes and an index limit the book's usefulness for research" but praised the book for its "cohesive, historical narrative."



Air Power History, summer, 2004, Jordan S. Goldberg, review of Women Who Fly, p. 54.

Booklist, February 15, 2001, Vanessa Bush, review of Black Knights: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen, p. 1098; February 15, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Tuskegee Airmen Story, p. 1089; July, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Women Who Fly, p. 1840.

Journal of Southern History, November, 2003, Robert J. Jakeman, review of Black Knights, p. 980.

School Library Journal, March, 2003, Mary Mueller, review of Tuskegee Airmen: American Heroes, p. 234; January, 2004, Erlene Bishop Killeen, review of Girls Fly!, p. 98; September, 2004, Laura Reed, review of Women Who Fly, p. 227.


Florida Humanities Council Web site, (April 14, 2005), "About the Presenters: Lynn Homan and Thomas Reilly."