U.S. Army general, soldier. Born on July 1, 1877, in Washington,
D.C. Breaking new ground, Davis became the first African American
general in the United States Army. He began his military career as
a volunteer during the Spanish-American War in 1898. Receiving his
commission in 1901, Davis was made a second lieutenant in the
regular army. Despite the widespread prejudice against African
Americans, he rose up the ranks, becoming a brigadier general in
During World War II, he held many posts, including assistant to
the Inspector General. One of his most crucial roles at this time
was an advisor on African American issues in Europe. Many black
soldiers were upset by the discrimination they encountered from
white soldiers and by their exclusion from combat duty. A
well-regarded military officer and an important member of the black
community, Davis offered his advice and counsel how to improve this
tense situation and lobbied for a full integration of U.S. troops.
The army agreed a limited integration of the forces in Europe.
Leaving the military in 1948, Davis had spent fifty years
serving his country. During his exemplary career, he was awarded
the Bronze Star Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal. Davis
died of leukemia on November 26, 1970. Twice married, he had three
children. His son, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., followed his father's
footsteps, also becoming a general in the U.S. Army.