Black in the Day…Leading the Charge

October 25, 1940:

On this day Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. became the first Black person to be named as General in the US military.

Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., was born in Washington, D.C., on July 1, 1877. He entered the military service on July 13, 1898, during the War with Spain as a temporary first lieutenant of the 8th United States Volunteer Infantry. He was mustered out on March 6, 1899, and on June 18, 1899, he enlisted as a private in Troop I, 9th Cavalry, of the Regular Army. He then served as corporal and squadron sergeant major, and on February 2, 1901, he was commissioned a second lieutenant of Cavalry in the Regular Army.

Promoted general at the age of 60, Davis saw little action in World War II. During the conflict, he mostly made inspection tours of black troops in Europe. While in this role, Davis increasingly supported the desegregation of the U.S. Army. In 1947 he was appointed a special assistant to the Secretary of the Army. On July 20, 1948, President Harry Truman presided over the public ceremony in which Davis retired after fifty years of military service.

Benjamin O. Davis Sr. died on November 26, 1970, at the Great Lakes Naval Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, and was interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

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