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Wilson County News November 7, 2012 2,560 views 1 comment
FLORESVILLE -- He served his country as one of an elite group of African American fighter pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen, and went on to serve the medical community as a radiologist and inventor. But on Oct. 23, Dr. Granville Coggs visited Floresville to address the city’s Rotary Club.
At 87 years old, Coggs has done more living than most. And with a spring in his step, he shows no signs of slowing down.
“I look forward to being 100 years old in 2025,” Coggs said.
The San Antonio resident graduated from the all-black Dunbar High School in Little Rock, Ark., in 1942. According to a 2007 article in the University of Nebraska Alumni Association’s Nebraska Magazine, Coggs in 1943 was a freshman at Howard University when he discovered that he likely would be drafted into the military, where he would end up as an infantryman.
Instead, Coggs enlisted in the U.S. Army Aviation Cadet Program, subsequently qualifying to serve in the then-segregated U.S. Army Air Corps. He trained at Tuskegee Institute -- now Tuskegee University, which was founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington in the Alabama city of the same name.
While Coggs would go on to earn badges as an aerial gunner and an aerial bombardier, he never participated in the heroic aerial combat that was depicted in George Lucas’ box office smash “Red Tails,” as it was October 1945 before he would be certified as a twin-engine military pilot. VJ Day had occurred in August of that year.
One month after his 1946 discharge, Coggs married his wife, Maud, whom he had met at Tuskegee two years earlier. The two then moved from Arkansas to Nebraska to attend the University of Nebraska, where the couple excelled academically.
Coggs in 1953 graduated from Harvard Medical School and would go on to become a radiologist, coming to San Antonio to teach at the University of Texas Health Science Center in 1975. It was there that he pioneered the use of dedicated mammography, which precipitated his launch of the San Antonio Breast Evaluation Center.
Coggs retired from the university in 1989, but continued practicing at hospitals in Texas and California. One of those hospitals was the Otto Kaiser Memorial Hospital in Kenedy. He continues to work 15 hours per week reading chest films and screening mammograms at the San Antonio Military Medical Center. Coggs also has two inventions to his credit, one of which is a precision probe used in screening for breast cancer.
With his lifelong commitment to the medical wellbeing of others, it is no surprise that the title of Coggs’ message to the Rotary was “How to Live to Become 87 and Healthy.” Coggs, who was born in 1925, is a medal- winning senior Olympian. He still runs in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 400-meter races in the men’s 85-89 group. On April 18, 2010, Coggs won gold medals in each of those events at a meet in San Antonio.
Coggs said he believes that human beings are scheduled to live 100 years. Longevity runs in his family, as his father, Dr. Tandy Washington Coggs Sr., lived to 105. His mother, Nannie (née Hinkle) lived to just 77. Coggs said he also had an uncle who lived to 108.
The San Antonio resident attributes his longevity partly to healthy eating and physical exercise -- which he calls “an aerobic lifestyle.” In addition to running, Coggs swims daily in his temperature-controlled pool.
“It won’t happen unless you schedule,” he said. “I recommend you do it first thing in the day so other things won’t get in the way.”
Coggs also suggests refraining from the abuse of drugs, tobacco, and alcohol.
“If you are a smoker and you continue to smoke, you’ll die 15 years before your nonsmoking colleagues,” he said.
In addition to his athletic prowess and his tireless commitment to medicine, Coggs also is a jazz musician. He even demonstrated his instrument, the gut bucket -- a No. 2 wash tub with a long handle and single string. When Coggs gingerly plucked the string, the instrument produced a sound similar to a string bass.
Toward the end of his remarks, Coggs recalled a recent visit to the library at the University of California at Berkeley, where he saw a bust of Abraham Lincoln that accompanied the text of the Gettysburg Address. Coggs recalled being required to memorize the address as a student, and he made it a priority to do it again.
“I said, ‘I’m a Tuskegee Airman, I can do anything,’” he recalled.
Coggs not only memorized the address, but recited it for those in attendance.
“The words mean more to me now than they did 70 years ago,” he said.