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Davis, Benjamin Oliver, Jr.

Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr., 1912–2002, American air force general, b. Washington, D.C.; son of Benjamin Oliver Davis. After studying at Western Reserve and Chicago universities, he attended West Point, graduating in 1936. At the academy, Davis was the only African American in a white student body and was ostracized by the majority of the cadets, who would speak to him only in the line of duty. Following graduation he served as an infantry officer, entered the U.S. air force, and completed his flight training in 1942. During World War II he distinguished himself as a combat pilot, leading the Tuskegee Airmen. In 1954, Davis became the first African-American general in the U.S. air force; from 1965 to 1970 he served as lieutenant general. In 1971 he became an assistant secretary for the department of transportation, leaving the department in 1975.

See his autobiography (1991).

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