Harold Hurd first saw a black man fly an airplane at an airshow in 1929. Three years later, he was one of the first class of all black graduates from Aeronautical University in Chicago. After graduation Hurd helped organize the Challenger Air Pilots Association and its 1937 successor organization, the National Airmen's Association of America, in efforts to expand black interest in flying. He underwrote his aviation interests by working at the Chicago Defender newspaper. He later worked for several local papers on Chicago's Southside.