June 18, 1932 – July 22, 2016
Cravane Middlebrooks Givens, of Williamsville, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and community leader, died Friday. He was 84.
Born in Buffalo, the fifth of six children, he attended School 75 and Hutchinson-Central High School, where he was treasurer of his junior class and captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams during his senior year. Elected senior class president in 1950, he was the first African-American student to hold that office. He also received the Dartmouth Award.
He attended A&T College, now North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, in Greensboro, N.C., on a football scholarship. As a linebacker, he helped take the team to the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship in 1950 and the National Black College championship in 1951.
He was a game captain in 1951 and 1952 and team captain in 1953. He helped organize the Letterman’s Club in 1951 and was inducted into the college’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
When A&T instituted an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program in 1951, he was selected as one of its first cadets.
He graduated cum laude with a degree in physical education in 1954, received the 1954 Greensboro Men’s Club Award and earned a commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve.
Ordered to active duty shortly after graduation, he went to flight school. His first permanent assignment was to Forbes Air Force Base in Topeka, Kan., where he was a co-pilot on KC-97G Stratotankers in the 55th Air Refueling Squadron. Promoted to aircraft commander in 1958, he flew missions to Greenland, Alaska, Japan, England, Turkey, Taiwan and the Pacific islands.
Transferred to the 380th Bomb Wing at Plattsburgh Air Force Base, in 1964 he began flying KC-135A jet tankers. Assigned to Walker Air Force Base in Roswell, N.M., he served as a summary court officer for the investigation into the crash of a KC-135.
When that base closed in 1967, he went to Beale Air Force Base in Marysville, Calif., where he was assigned to refuel jets for combat missions in Southeast Asia. He also took part in bombing missions over Vietnam.
Retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1974, he had logged 6,500 flight hours, including 500 hours in combat, and received the Air Medal and three Air Force commendation medals.
Mr. Givens returned to Buffalo and served as football coach for Canisius College from 1974 to 1977, then was supervisor of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s Metropolitan Transit Center for four years. He was assistant director of residence life activities at SUNY Buffalo State from 1985 to 1991.
Baptized into First Shiloh Baptist Church, as a boy he sang in the Junior Choir and served on the Junior Usher Board. Returning to the church after retirement, he served as president of the Senior Ministry and was named to its Senior Hall of Fame in 2003.
A founding member of First Shiloh Housing Corp. in 1982, he served on its board until his death. He also was the first president of the Shiloh Youth Foundation.
He was a life member and former historian of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Phi Omega chapter, and served several terms a chapter president. He also was a life member of the Western New York Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America and the Buffalo chapters of the NAACP and the Urban League.
He was a past president of the Hutchinson-Central High School Alumni Association and was chairman of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Trust Fund of Buffalo. He also co-chaired the annual Martin Luther King memorial events for many years at Shea’s Performing Arts Center.
Survivors include his wife of 60 years, the former Rhudine J. Giles; a son, Robert Marc; a daughter, Dawn Marie Wofford; and two grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held at noon Friday in First Shiloh Baptist Church, 15 Pine St. Visitation starts at 11 a.m.