William Aiken, Sr. was a pioneer in African-American aviation in California from the 1930s through the 1960s. He was born in Plainsdealing, Louisiana in 1907, left home at the age of 13 and worked his way to California performing odd jobs. In the mid-1920s he started his own car washing business and began taking flying lessons. In 1928 he soloed for the first time and in 1936, Aiken earned his private pilot's license. He joined the California Civil Air Patrol, and was appointed a Second Lieutenant and Commanding Officer of the Los Angeles Squadron #7, California Wing in 1948. Aiken became a flight instructor, instructing not only his own children, but any African-American youth with the desire to learn to fly. He continued to fly until he suffered a stroke in 1969.