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*Daniel “Chappie” James was born on this date in 1920. He was a Black pilot and military commander.
From Pensacola, Florida, he learned to fly while attending the Tuskegee Institute and after graduation in 1942 continued civilian flight training until he received appointment as a Cadet in the Army Air Corps in January 1943. He was commissioned in July 1943 and throughout the remainder of World War II he trained pilots for the all-Black 99th Pursuit Squadron while working in other assignments. James was next stationed in Ohio and in the Philippines.
During the Korean War he flew 101 fighter missions. From 1953 to 1956 he was at Otis Air Force Base, Massachusetts, and there was promoted to the rank of Major. After graduating from the Air Command-Staff School in 1957, he was assigned to staff duty in Washington. From 1960 to 1967, he was stationed in England, Arizona and in Vietnam where from 1966-67 he flew 78 combat missions. By then a Colonel, James was Vice Commander of the 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing, Elgin Air Force Base, Florida, in 1967-69. From there he was promoted to Brigadier General, was named base commander of Wheelus Air Force Base in Libya.
In March 1970 be became Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and advanced to Major General. In September 1974, with the rank of Lieutenant General, he became Vice Commander of the Military Airlift Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. In 1975, James became the first Black officer in the history of the United States military to attain 4-star full General rank. At that time he was named Commander of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), with accountability for all aspects of the air defense of the United States and Canada.
He was also much-sought after as a public speaker and devoted considerable time to addressing youth groups, particularly non-white students. Daniel James died shortly after his retirement from the Air Force of a heart attack in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Reference Library of Black America Volumes 1 through 5
Edited by Mpho Mabunda
Copyright 1998, Gale Research, Detroit, MI