Alford Gardner, 97, was presented with a Leeds Award, which formally recognises the achievement of people who have made an enormous contribution to the city, at Leeds Civic Hall.
Born in Jamaica in 1926, he travelled to the UK when he was a teenager and volunteered for the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.
He worked as an engineer and mechanic at RAF Hunmanby Moor, near Filey, and after the war he completed a de-mob engineering course in Leeds, before returning to his homeland.
Struggling to find work, he travelled back to the UK on the Empire Windrush, landing at Tilbury Docks in June 1948, and then made his way to Leeds.
Initially met with discrimination, Mr Gardner found a job in engineering and settled with his wife Norma McKenna in Hyde Park, where they raised nine children together.
In 1948, he became one of the founding members of the city’s famed Caribbean Cricket Club and helped it become a focal point for the city’s West Indian community.
The club is the longest-running black-led organisation in Leeds.
Mr Gardner said: “I am very honoured to receive this award but surprised. It is something that I never expected.
“When I returned to the UK in 1948, my only thought was to get back to Leeds because I loved the city and the people.”
Lord Mayor of Leeds Al Garthwaite, said: “It was a great honour to be able to present such an inspirational person as Alford Gardner with the Leeds Award.
“Alford is a true pioneer who has made a lasting impact on his adopted home while blazing a trail for so many members of the city’s Caribbean community.”
She added: “This award is richly deserved, and we are proud to honour him and celebrate the contribution he has made to Leeds, while also ensuring that his remarkable story continues to be told for many generations to come.”
The award was approved by councillors at a Leeds City Council meeting in November.