• Name: Gen. Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr.
INTEGRATION PIONEER: Benjamin O. Davis Jr. served in the Air Force. -
GREG GIBSON / Associated Press
• Born: Dec. 18, 1912, in Washington
• Died: July 4, 2002, in Washington
• Facts: Davis, son of the military's first black general, played a significant role in helping to integrate the armed forces. Davis led the legendary Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and was the first black to become an Air Force general. In 1948, President Truman ordered integration of the armed forces, and Davis helped draft the Air Force plan for implementation. He retired from the Air Force as lieutenant general and was the senior black officer in all the U.S. military. In 1998, President Clinton awarded Davis his fourth star, making him a full general.
• Notable: Davis graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1936. During his four years at the academy he was ostracized and ignored. He ate his meals alone, had no roommate and had no one assigned to his tent during field exercises. No one spoke to him except in the line of duty.
• Quote: "My own opinion was that blacks could best overcome racist attitudes through achievements, even though those achievements had to take place within the hateful environment of segregation."
• On the Web:
www.arlingtoncemetery.net/bodavisjr.htm, Arlington National Cemetery;
www.aviation-history.com/airmen/davis.htm, Aviation History Online Museum.
Sources: U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission; Air Force Magazine, August 1997; "Moton Field/Tuskegee Airmen Special Resource Study," U.S. Department of the Interior