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Military officer Lieutenant General Russell C. Davis was born on October 22, 1938 in Tuskegee, Alabama to Winfred Davis and Marcus Davis. After graduating from Tuskegee Institute High School and attending Tuskegee Institute, he received his B.A. degree in general education in 1963 from the University of Nebraska Omaha and his J.D. degree in 1969 from Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa. Davis also studied at the Air Command and Staff College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
Davis began his military career in the U.S. Air Force in 1958 as an aviation cadet. Following pilot training, he was assigned as a bomber pilot at Lincoln Air Force Base in Nebraska. In 1965, Davis was released from active duty and joined the Iowa Air National Guard in Des Moines, where he served in numerous command and staff positions, from squadron pilot to director of operations, while practicing law. Davis returned to active duty in 1979 and was assigned deputy chief of manpower and personnel for the Air National Guard Support Center at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and then executive to the chief of the National Guard Bureau. In 1982, he was promoted to brigadier general, becoming the first African American general officer in the Air National Guard. Davis was also assigned commander of the 113th Tactical Fighter Wing in the D.C. Air National Guard, and was named commanding general in 1991. He was then appointed vice chief of the National Guard Bureau in 1995 and chief by President Bill Clinton in 1998, becoming the first African American to hold this position. As chief, Davis was the senior uniformed National Guard officer responsible for formulating, developing, and coordinating all policies, programs and plans affecting over half a million Army and Air National Guard personnel in the capacity of principal advisor to the secretary and chief of staff of the Army and secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force on all National Guard issues. He retired in 2002 and became a consultant in security and defense, aviation operations and safety, training and development, equal opportunity and diversity, and the law.
Davis has served as president of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and as a trustee of Drake University.
Davis has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, and Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster. He also received the Carver Medal from Simpson College, the NAACP Roy Wilkins Achievement Award, Air Force Association Service Award, Tuskegee Airmen Achievement and Service Award, the Howard Kacy Flying Safety Award, and the Air Force Association’s Ira Eaker Fellowship.
Davis and his wife, Shirley Davis, live in Alexandria, Virginia. They have two children, Tyree Davis and Pamela Davis.
Lieutenant General Russell C. Davis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 4, 2022.