Tuskegee Airmen commanding officer named 2022 First Flight Shrine inductee

General Benjamin O. Davis Jr. [courtesy U.S. Air Force]

Commanding officer of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the late-Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., has been named the 2022 honoree to be inducted into the Dr. Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine located in the Museum and Visitors Center at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills.

This honor is selected annually by a high-level panel appointed by the First Flight Society, from among numerous nominations submitted from around the world as well as compiled lists of qualified candidates.

The induction ceremony will be held on Wright Brothers Day, December 17, 2022, with a celebration banquet held on December 16, 2022 in Kitty Hawk.

A portrait of Davis. will be unveiled and presented at the ceremony on December 17th, 2022, celebrating the 119th Anniversary of the Wright Brothers First Flight.

Davis was the first African-American brigadier general in the USAF. Davis Jr was born December 18th, 1912 in Washington, DC. He earned a 1932 nomination to the U.S. Military Academy from Rep. Oscar S. De Priest (R-Ill.), then America’s only black congressman. He was the first African-American to be admitted to the Academy since Reconstruction.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Army Air Corps to create a flying organization for African-American troops.

Davis, the only living black West Point graduate at the time, was ordered from Ft. Benning, Georgia, to Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. Davis would see the Tuskegee Airmen swell in ranks to 1,000 and form the 99th Pursuit Squadron, later the 332d Fighter Squadron. By the end of the war Davis had flown 60 combat missions and had been promoted to colonel.

Davis also served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. He ended his career as deputy commander in chief of the U.S. Air Force. After retiring in 1970, he served as an assistant secretary at the Department of Transportation under President Richard M. Nixon. Davis died July 4th, 2002 at age 89.

William Douglas, chairman of the First Flight Society’s National Advisory Committee, served as chair of the Dr. Paul E. Garber Shrine Selection Panel.

For more information about the Paul E Garber Shrine visit www.firstflight.org/first-flight-shrine/

Without the First Flight Society there would not be a Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills.

The Kill Devil Hills Memorial Association, later named First Flight Society, began as a group of local businessmen who successfully petitioned the US Congress to fund and build a monument to the Wright Brothers’ 1903 achievement.

The First Flight Society plans the annual celebration at the Wright Brothers National Memorial on December 17th mandated by their bylaws to memorialize the work of the Wright Brothers.

They created the Paul E Garber Shrine in 1966 to honor individuals and groups for achieving significant “firsts” in aviation development since 1903. Charles Lindbergh, Tuskegee Airmen, Mary Feik, John Glenn, Katherine Johnson (Hidden Figures) and most recently astronaut Sally K. Ride among others.

First Flight Society promotes aviation education through an Aviation Education Committee to expand the knowledge of the Wright Brothers’ legacy by bringing aviation education programs to students in Dare County. They also offer an annual FFS Scholarship through Outer Banks Community Foundation for students pursuing aviation education in North Carolina.

More information about the First Flight Society can be found at https://firstflight.org