Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. (1877-1970), one of the most important military professionals of the 19th and 20th centuries, was the first black general in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Armed Forces. A native Washingtonian, Davis attended M Street High School and Howard University. His first tour of duty for the U.S. Army took him to the Philippines during the Spanish-American War in 1898. Davis moved up through the ranks, spending time as a professor of military science at Wilberforce and Tuskegee Universities and for the Ohio and New York National Guards. Davis worked in a number of positions for the armed forces over a span of 50 years before retiring in 1948, the same year that President Truman issued Executive Order 9981 barring segregation in the armed forces. He received the Bronze Star Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal in recognition of his service as an inspector of troop units in the field and as special War Department consultant on matters pertaining to African American troops. He moved to this house in 1948.

Davis and his wife Elnora Davis raised a son who followed in his father's footsteps. Lt. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. (1912-2002), born in Washington, stands out as the nation's second African American general officer and the U.S. Air Force's first African American general. He was also a commander of the Tuskegee Airmen, which formed the core of the U.S. Army's all-black 99th Pursuit Squadron during World War II. Under Davis, the squadron's 332d Fighter Group flew more than 15,000 sorties against the Luftwaffe, shot down 111 enemy aircraft, destroyed another 150 on the ground, and lost only 66 of their own aircraft. Davis retired in 1970 and later served as assistant secretary of transportation for environment, safety, and consumer affairs under President Nixon.

Both men had to endure the racist and segregationist practices of the white-run armed forces and both, in overt and subtle ways, worked to eradicate injustice. They are interred at Arlington National Cemetery.


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