This Day in Black History: Oct. 25, 1940

Benjamin O. Davis Sr. became the U.S. Army's first African-American general.

Posted: 10/25/2012 08:30 AM EDT
Benjamin O. Davis Sr.

(Photo: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Colin Powell may be one of the world's most famous generals, but Benjamin O. Davis Sr. paved his way to fame. Born in 1877 Davis attended Howard University but dropped out in 1898 to serve as a first lieutenant of volunteers in the Spanish-American War.

In 1899 he enlisted as a private in the 9th U.S. Cavalry of the Regular Army. Davis, who quickly became a second and then first lieutenant, served as a professor of military tactics at Wilberforce University in Ohio and at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

After alternating between the two institutions for 14 years — and a stint in the Philippines and an independent command in the 369th National Guard Infantry Regiment, on Oct. 25, 1940, Davis became the first Black soldier to receive the rank of general in the Army.

Davis died on Nov. 26, 1970. His son, Benjamin O. Davis Jr., followed in his footsteps to become a Tuskegee Airman and the first African-American general in the U.S. Air Force.


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