Daniel "Chappie" James, Jr. born: Feb. 11, 1920 died: Feb. 25, 1978 Arlington National Cemetery "At the end of his military career in 1977, Daniel James, Jr. reflected on his life in the Air Force, stating that early in his career he had realized the importance of setting an example for younger recruits to follow, especially young African Americans who wished to pursue military careers. James had experienced firsthand some of the obstacles encountered by blacks in the military. When he entered the Army in January 1943, he was a member of a segregated unit in Alabama. Once he was barred from leaving the base in his uniform so that white enlisted me would not have to salute a young black flight officer. Nevertheless, the held firm to his dream of a military flying career, choosing to fight the racial inequality in the U.S. Armed Forces an d to change the system from within. When James retired from the Air Force, he had become the first black American in our nation's history to achieve the four-star rank of general. Raised in a family of 17 children, "Chappie," as he was known, left his home in Pensacola, Florida, to attend Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Following his graduation in 1942, he continued his education in the field of civilian flight training until he received his appointment as a cadet 1943. Assigned to a segregated unit in Alabama, and remaining with that unit throughout World War II, he trained pilots for the all-black Ninety-ninth Pursuit Squadron. During the Korean War, he flew 101 missions in fighter planes, and from 1953 until 1956, he commanded the 437th and then the Sixtieth Fighter Interception Squadrons. In 1957, James gradated from the Air Command and Staff College and was assigned to duty in Washington, D.C. After tours of duty in England and Arizona, James was ordered to Vietnam om 1966. There he flew 78 combat missions, earning promotion to colonel. When he left Vietnam the following year, he was named vice commander of the Thirty-third Tactical Fighter Wing at Elgin Air Force Base, Florida. His rise in rank continued. In 1969, he was promoted to brigadier general and given command of Wheelus Air Force Base in Libya. Returning to the United States in 1970, he served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs and achieved the rank of major general. In 1974, climbing to the rank of lieutenant general, he became vice commander of the Military Airlift Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. The pinnacle of James' distinguished career was reached in December 1975, when he became the first black American in any branch of the service to gain promotion to full general. At that time, General Daniel James, Jr. was named commander of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), a distinction which gave him responsibility for all aspects of the air defense of the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, James suffered from heart problems which forced his retirement from the Air Force in 1977. He died in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on February 25, 1978, and following a funeral mass attended by military and civilian leaders at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., General James was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery."