Daniel James Jr. was born on February 11, 1920, in Pensacola, Florida. Daniel James was the first African American to become a four-star general in the U.S. Air Force. He graduated from high school in 1937 and went on to college at the Tuskegee Institute, a famous African-American school.
During college, James, nicknamed "Chappie," became interested in flying and became a pilot through the Civilian Pilot Training Program. After completing the program, he stayed on as an instructor. Facing many obstacles, including the racial prejudices of the times, James fought for a place at military flight school. Passing the required tests with ease, he completed his training in 1943. During World War II, he served primarily as an instructor, teaching other African Americans in the 99th Pursuit Squadron.
It was during the Korean War that James began flying combat missions—more than 100 in all. For these achievements, he received the Distinguished Service Medal. James also served in the Vietnam War and flew more than 75 missions during that conflict. In 1970, he became the assistant deputy secretary of defense in the area of public affairs.
Over the course of his career, James was promoted several times, finally becoming a four-star general in 1975. Along this promotion came even greater responsibilities. James was made the commander of NORAD/ADCOM at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. In this position, he oversaw air defense forces for the United States and Canada. In his last post, he served as a special assistant to the chief of staff.
Daniel James Jr. retired in 1978. He died on February 25 of that same year, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
A trailblazer with a career that spanned three wars, Daniel James Jr. stands as an example of military grace and professionalism. He is remembered for once stating, "Nobody dislikes war more than warriors." During his lifetime, he received many military and social honors, including the George Washington Freedom Foundation Medal in 1967 and in 1968.