Saturday, February 6, 2010

Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. - A True American Hero

February is Black History Month, and I’ve had both the honor and the privilege of knowing, personally, a particularly amazing man who also happens to be a very prominent figure in (black) American military history: General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. (December 18, 1912 – July 4, 2002). General Davis was the first black general in the United States Air Force as well as the commander of the famous (World War II) Tuskegee Airmen. (If you haven't already, please follow the link (above) to the Wikipedia article about General Davis and read it; he truly is an American hero.)

General Davis, as we always called him, was my dad’s boss at the Department of Transportation (DOT), during the early 1970’s. At the time, airliner hijackings were very common and President Nixon had chosen General Davis to head up airline security at the DOT. As my dad told it, General Davis told Nixon that he would accept the job if, and only if, he could have my dad as his personal assistant. Nixon acquiesced to this request and my dad was soon onboard with General Davis (my dad was a speechwriter for the secretary of the DOT at the time, as well as a raving liberal who hated both Nixon and Nixon’s raving conservative speechwriter:
Pat Buchanan, who really didn’t care much for my dad either).

General Davis beefed up the
sky marshal program and both he and my dad took a round-the-world trip to meet with their government counter-parts in many, many foreign countries. I remember my dad showing me the passport that he had used on that trip, which had “U. S. Government Agent on Official U. S. Government Business” printed right on it, and I just thought that was the coolest thing. I don’t think they ever had any trouble with airport security, do you?

General Davis would, occasionally, come over to our house for dinner and I would see him sometimes when I went to visit my dad at work. It really wasn’t until I got much older, and saw General Davis mentioned in a book about famous people in Black American History, that I realized just what an amazing man General Davis really was: a true American hero. To me, he’d always been my dad’s boss.
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