Davis Jr., whose life and history are inextricably linked with that of his father’s, was a combat pilot and commander of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. Similar to his dad, Davis Jr. was the first Black military officer to achieve the rank of brigadier general in the United States Air Force.
Davis Jr. exceeded his father’s expectations and perhaps surpassed his legend in a storied military career.
Davis Sr. was an enduring example and laid the groundwork for his son from the beginning.
Both men’s names are easily spoken to this day, with the 66th anniversary of Davis Jr.'s promotion to general coming this Tuesday.
By all accounts, Davis Sr. was a swashbuckling soldier and commander who moved up fast through the ranks.
Twelve days after his 21st birthday in 1898, Davis entered military service as a foot soldier for the cavalry during the Spanish-American War. He served bravely in the Philippine Islands.
By 1901, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant, according to his online Army biography, provided through the U.S. Army Center of Military History. Through the years, Davis Sr. continued a quiet rise through the ranks, becoming a lieutenant colonel, captain and a “full bird” colonel, denoted by the silver eagle insignia, all by 1930. He was promoted to brigadier general a decade later, the first Black man to achieve the rank in any of the armed services.
As a commanding officer and professor, Davis Sr. also served in many domestic assignments across the country. He was known for tours in Liberia and for additional diplomacy in Europe for which he received letters of commendation.
He was born in Washington, D.C., on July 1, 1877, and died on Nov. 26, 1970.
He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.