One of the greatest unsung heroes of the twentieth century is Gene “Jacques” Bullard, a World War One fighter pilot, boxer, spy, and overall adventurer. He was the first American-born black fighter pilot in history- and he flew for France. Bullard grew up in Georgia and ran away from home after a lynch mob forced his father to flee and leave his family. He ran away from home and lived with gypsies, then hopped on German freighter to Scotland. He then continued his sojourn as a pro boxer, then as a drummer and assistant nightclub manager in Paris during the Jazz Age. Bullard took advantage of all the opportunities in Europe that would be denied to a black man back in America. He married a white socialite in Paris, opened a successful nightclub, and joined the French Foreign Legion. After being wounded, he joined the French Air Corps during WWI and shot down two German planes. Prior to World War Two he worked a spy for French Intelligence. He rejoined the Foreign Legion in WWII but was wounded and transported on a hospital ship to New York City.
Bullard spent the rest of his life as part of the French expatriate community in New York and was a fixture of the city’s multicultural life.
Today’s guest is Jon Hagadorn, host of the podcast “1001 Heroes, Legends, Histories & Mysteries.” He shares the fascinating life of a man whose story is worth remembering.
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