Our NBC News partners at WSFA are reporting that one of the original members of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, Lt. Col. Hiram Mann, has died at a Florida hospice, according to 

Mann was one of the first African-Americans to be trained by the Army Air Force as a military pilot. Prior to 1940, blacks were not allowed to fly for the military.

"The first letter of rejection I received said straight out, there are no facilities to train Negroes to fly in any branch of the American military service," Mann 
 in 2011 during a ceremony in which a stretch of South Carolina interstate was dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen.

According to Tuskegee University, Mann graduated from the Tuskegee Army Airfield Flying Training Program in 1944. He became a pilot assigned to the 302 Fighter Squadron and later the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group, known as the "Red Tails", in Italy.

"Why would you volunteer to fight for a country that treated you like a second class citizen?" Mann said during a 2008 interview with WSFA 12 News. "I thought for a while. I said I had a wife and a mother and a grandmother, living, and I did not want the Nazis coming to America and treating my relatives the way the women in Europe were being treated, so I did my little bit to try to keep them away from the shores of America."

Mann flew 48 combat missions with the Red Tails. He retired from the Air Force in 1972.

Nearly six decades after breaking the racial barrier that led to his career in the military, Mann in 2006 received an honorary Ph.D. from Tuskegee University.

He was the focus of a 
Tuskegee Airman Fighter Pilot: A Story of an Original Tuskegee Pilot Lt. Col. Hiram E. Mann
 that was based on his personal interviews and diaries. He discussed the book (
) in a segment filmed by C-SPAN.

Mann was just a week shy of his 93rd birthday.