Born in 1907, Anderson is believed to have lived with his parents on the Miss Wright’s School and all girls property in Bryn Mawr. His father was a coachman and his mother a domestic worker for a wealthy Main Line family. The son attended Lower Merion public schools including Lower Merion High School in the early 1920s. The early beginnings of Chief Anderson’s life has been vague. Yet, after nearly a century the story of Chief and his legacy returns home to his birthplace of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. While on a visit to Chief Anderson’s Alma Mater, Lower Merion High School, Christina Anderson gave a presentation about the life and accomplishments of Chief Anderson to a room full of very interested and enthused high school students.
Christina, first reached out to the Lower Merion High School as part of her research for a Smithsonian Institute collection and her documentary The Chief “A Grand Daughters Journey Through His-Story” about her grandfather. Christina need to piece together her grandfather’s history from birth and could not do so without returning back to his place of birth. Throughout her life she have often wondered about her great grandfather Iverson Anderson and her grandfather life at Miss Wright’s School. Christina’s first goal was to contact the Lower Merion High School were she was put in touch with Doug Young, Director of Community Relations at the Lower Merion School District. She explained to Doug that she had found a resume that listed Lower Merion High School in his educational background. She was more than hopeful to learn more about the Bryn Mawr area and were her grandfather was born.
After a thorough search, Doug was able to locate Chief Anderson’s transcripts – dating back to his second grade year at the Bryn Mawr School in 1915. Chief left Lower Merion sometime during his high school years to pursue a budding interest in aviation. Though Lower Merion provided a solid educational foundation, there weren’t many practical opportunities to learn aviation mechanics. Thus, Chief Anderson began his fascinating, inspiring journey to become one of the most important aviation instructors in U.S. history. He is perhaps best known as the pilot who took First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for her famed flight at Tuskegee in 1941. That event gave an enormous boost to black aviation and elevated the Tuskegee Airmen to the national spotlight.
We would like to thank the Lower Merion School District, Bryn Mawr Historical Society and the community of Bryn Mawr for their support!