For day 18 of my black history challenge, I chose to write on Benjamin Davis Sr. Looking back, I should have probably wrote on Gen. Davis prior to writing on Daniel "Chappies" James. Nonetheless, I'm sure you'll still find his accomplishments nothing short of extraordinary.
Benjamin Oliver Davis Sr. was born on July 1, 1877 in Washington, D.C. Earlier research is said to show evidence that he was actually born in May of 1880 and lied about his date of birth in order to enlist in the Army without his parent's permission. Still, all official records, including his gravestone have his birth date as July 1, 1877.
Davis attended M Street High School in Washington where he participated in the school's cadet program. During his senior year of high school he took some classes at Howard University. He was determined to take on a military career despite his parent's wishes for him to go to college.
At the start of the Spanish-American War, just after graduating high school; Davis entered into military service on July 13, 1898 as a temporary first lieutenant in the 8th United States Volunteer Infantry, an all-black unit. This regiment was stationed at Chickamauga Park, Georgia, from October 1898 until the unit was disbanded in March 1899. During the war, Davis briefly served in Company D, 1st Separate Battalion of the Washington D.C. National Guard.
Davis was mustered out on March 6, 1899, and on June 18, 1899, he enlisted as a private in Troop I, 9th Cavalry Regiment (one of the original Buffalo Soldier regiments), of the Regular Army. At his post in Fort Duchesne, Utah, he served first as the troop's clerk and later as squadron sergeant major through 1900. In late 1900, Davis's unit was commanded by Lieutenant Charles Young, the only African-American officer serving in the US military at that time. Young encouraged Davis's ambition to become an officer.
Receiving his commission in 1901, Davis was made a second lieutenant in the regular army while serving with Troop F, 10th Cavalry, in the Philippine-American War. Despite the widespread prejudice against African Americans, he rose up the ranks, becoming a brigadier general - and the first African-American to ever become a general in the regular army - in 1940.
Davis's son, Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr., followed in his father's footsteps in becoming the first black general officer of the United States Air Force in October 1954.
Davis died on November 26, 1970, at Great Lakes Naval Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Davis was pioneer and paved the way for black men & women in the military today. He played a key role in enabling blacks to move up the ranks. We salute you General Davis.
"My own opinion was that blacks could best overcome racist attitudes through achievements, even though those achievements had to take place within the hateful environment of segregation." - General Benjamin O. Davis Sr.