General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.Posted on November 11th at 11:25 am
Son of the first African American officer in the United States Army, Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr. lived a life inspired by determination. Committed to his goal of becoming a pilot in the United States Air Force, Davis pursued opportunities with great focus and commitment, serving others and leading the way for others to come.
Beginning his military career in the days of segregation, Davis attended the United States Military Academy at West Point. Ostracized by his classmates for the color of his skin, Davis lived without a roommate, ate his meals alone, and was barely spoken to outside of military practice. Driven by his personal goals and inspired by his father’s pursuits, Davis became the fourth African American to graduate from West Point, eventually earning the respect of his classmates who recognized his single-minded determination.
After graduation, the Army Air Corps rejected Davis because of the color of his skin. As he was posted to various officer assignments after graduation, Davis was consistently considered an outsider, not even allowed to enter the officer’s club on base.
Davis, like his father before him, was assigned to teach military tactics at this historically black university in Tuskegee, Alabama. In 1941, Roosevelt created the country’s first all-black flying unit, in which Davis became the first black officer to solo an Army Air Corps craft. With great servant leadership, Davis demonstrated discipline towards the work at hand, reminding his men that though injustice and segregation surrounded them, they must focus on the task at hand; there was a war to be won and the time to protest would come later.
And Davis was correct. As leader of the Tuskegee Airmen and during his time as a World War II commander, Davis and his pilots escorted bombers on over 200 air combat missions over Europe. His exceptional leadership helped prove that the performance of all-black flying units was equal to that of all-white units, and in 1948 when Harry S. Truman signed an order to fully integrate the US Armed Forces, Davis helped to draft the United States Air Force plan for integration.
Davis continued a life of public service until his retirement from active duty in 1970. In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. his four-star insignia as he was advanced to the rank of General, US Air Force.
A natural leader, a tough disciplinarian, and a selfless servant, Davis exemplified a life of determination.
His was an investment in a life of uncompromising commitment.