West Virginia

Rose Rolls Cousins - First African American Woman Licensed as a Solo Pilot in West Virginia

Rose Rolls Cousins was the first African American woman in West Virginia licensed as a solo pilot under the government sponsored Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP). She earned her wings at West Virginia State College, Institute, West Virginia.

While growing up in Fairmont, West Virginia, she took her first airplane ride with her father at the age of six. "That plane ride," she said, "was the most wonderful experience in the world." She continued her love of aviation, and in 1939, while earning a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration at West Virginia State College, she gained acceptance into the Civilian Pilot Training Program due to her strong determination and ability.

Rose Rolls Cousins

Rose Rolls Cousins today
Rose Rolls Cousins
West Virginia is proud that Rose Rolls Cousins is our Aviation First. We congratulate her on her numerous successes in the sky and on the ground!


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To get her license, Rose had to do a solo cross-country flight, using only her sight and a compass as guides. On her solo flight, Rose encountered strong winds, but successfully completed her flight. After graduating and obtaining her license in 1940, Rose worked for West Virginia State College and helped run the CPTP Program.

In 1941, she traveled with the original ten West Virginia male students to the Tuskegee Training Program in Alabama. Although she had hoped for acceptance into the program, it wasn't meant to be, and she returned to West Virginia.

Although she has numerous memories and memorabilia from her days as the lone woman pilot in the CPTP, she no longer is in possession of her wings. She pinned them on her father's coat lapel when he died.

Now in her 80s, Rose Rolls Cousins resides in Youngstown, Ohio. We extend our sincere appreciation to her for daring to dream and for opening doors for others.