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Soul Survivor

October 23, 1994

"A mountain of soul--woo-woo" ("Learn, Baby, Learn," by Magnificent Montague with Bob Baker, Sept. 25). That jingo has stayed in my head for 25 years. Many thanks.

Mike Campanale



By all means, Hubert Fauntleroy Julian deserves a place of prominence in Magnificent Montague's museum--but in the rogues' gallery.

Julian was a flimflammer and scam artist his entire life. His colonelcy was self-commissioned, as was his lieutenancy in 1923. He made a career out of promoting funds for flights to Africa that never came off, and he turned to the international arms trade when transatlantic flying became passe. Hardly a role model.

Julian was never a competent pilot, despite having had the best instructors, and most of his aerial escapades ended in spectacular crashes. He ground-looped on landing when he took his private-pilot's test in July, 1931, nearly crashing through a barn door. Several years later, during the coronation of Haile Selassie, Julian crashed again, while showing off in a borrowed Moth biplane.

Julian's claims to having raised and trained the Ethiopian Air Force are utterly without foundation. He never served Selassie but was denounced as a fraud and thrown out of Ethiopia in 1935.

His schemes did nothing but line his own pockets. The 10 (Bellanca Airbus) ambulances he tried to foist on the Finns were never even built, and there is no evidence that he held a bona fide commission in anyone's armed forces.

Montague needs to pass on the charlatans and glorify the real heroes. If he needs a black prince of aviation, let it be the likes of Eugene Bullard of the Lafayette Escadrille, Capt. William J. Faulkner Jr., who flew 56 World War II missions before he was killed, or Gen. Ben Davis Jr.

John Underwood


Montague replies: Julian was a rogue -- variously a soldier of fortune, stunt pilot, diplomat, rum runner, bodyguard, foreign correspondent and mercenary. My collection documents historical figures, not all of whom are role models. The article was written to express the excitement with which I pursue both the glory and the foibles of my people.

Julian lived in an era during which it was nearly impossible for black people to achieve and contribute. Yet, despite segregation, he strutted across the stage of the white man's country and soared to become the man he wanted to be. His many imperfections do not change that.

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