Tuesday afternoon, Martin Luther King Blvd became the focus point as the community gathered in front of the General Chappie James Building to hold a groundbreaking ceremony to begin the construction of the General Chappie James Museum in his honor.
Born on February 11, 1920, to Daniel Sr., and Lillie Anna James, Daniel Jr., graduated from Booker T Washington High School in 1937 and graduated from Tusleegge Institute going on to become a four-star general in the U.S. Air Force.
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.
Among other awards, General James became the first four-star African-American General. He retired in 1978 and on February 25 of 1978 he died in Colorado Springs, Colorado.