This entry focuses on General Daniel “Chappie” James Jr., who was the first African American to become a four-star general in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Born on February 11, 1920, in Pensacola, Florida, Daniel James Jr. grew up admiring the frequent sight of aircraft common to the Pensacola locale. He aspired to become a fighter pilot at a young age, an improbable dream for a person of color in the early 20th century United States. Nevertheless, after completing a government-sponsored civilian pilot training program, “Chappie,” as he was called in high school, received his wings as a second lieutenant in 1943 and very quickly became one of the renowned Tuskeegee Airmen. From there, General James continued exemplary service in his own active duty and the civil rights movement.
Quickly rising through the ranks thanks to his many efforts and accomplishments throughout Asia in the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand; James Jr. was promoted to a four-star grade general in 1975. His many accolades include the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross and more.