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First Name: Benjamin

Last Name: Davis

Birthplace: Washington, DC, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Oliver

Date of Birth: 01 July 1877

Date of Death: 26 November 1970

Rank: Brigadier General

Years Served:
Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr.

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)


Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr.
Brigadier General, U.S. Army

Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr. was born on 1 July 1877 in Washington, DC, to Louis P. H. and Henrietta Davis. He attended M Street High School in Washington where he participated in the school's cadet program. During the Spanish-American War, Davis briefly served in Company D, 1st Separate Battalion of the Washington DC National Guard.

On 10 July 1898, Davis joined the 8th U.S. Volunteer Infantry Regiment as a First Lieutenant of Company G. The 8th U.S. Volunteer Infantry was stationed at Chickamauga Park, GA, from October 1898 until the unit was disbanded in March 1899.

On 14 June 1899, Davis enlisted in the Regular Army. He was assigned to Troop I, 3rd Squadron, 9th Cavalry at Ft. Duchesne, UT, first as the Troop's Clerk and then as Squadron Sergeant Major. In the spring of 1901, Troop I was assigned to the Philippines. In August 1901, he was assigned to Troop F, 10th Cavalry, where Davis assumed the duties of a Second Lieutenant after passing an Officers' Qualification Test. Troop F returned to the U.S. in August 1902. Davis was then stationed at Fort Washakie, WY, where he also served for several months with Troop M. In September 1905, he was assigned to Wilberforce University in Ohio as Professor of Military Science and Tactics, a post that he filled for four years.

In November 1909, shortly after being ordered to Regimental Headquarters, 9th Cavalry, Davis was reassigned for duty to Liberia. He left the U.S. for Liberia in April 1910, and served as a military attaché reporting on Liberia's military forces until October 1911. He returned to the U.S. in November 1911. In January 1912, Davis was assigned to Troop I, 9th Cavalry, stationed at Fort D. A. Russell, WY. In 1913, the 9th Cavalry was assigned to patrol the Mexican-U.S. border.

In February 1915, Davis was again assigned to Wilberforce University as Professor of Military Science and Tactics. From 1917-20, Davis was assigned to the 9th Cavalry at Camp Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands, as Supply Officer, Commander of 3rd Squadron, and then of 1st Squadron. He reached the temporary rank of Lieutenant Colonel, but returned to the U.S. in March 1920 with the rank of Captain.

Davis was assigned to Tuskegee University in Alabama as the Professor of Military Science and Tactics from 1920-24. He then served for five years as an Instructor with 2nd Battalion, 372nd Regiment, Ohio National Guard, in Cleveland, OH. In September 1929, Davis returned to Wilberforce University as Professor of Military Science and Tactics. He was assigned to the Tuskegee Institute in the early part of 1931, and remained there for six years as Professor of Military Science and Tactics. During the summer months of 1930-33, Davis escorted pilgrimages of World War I Gold Star Mothers and Widows to the burial places of their loved ones in Europe.

In August 1937, Davis returned to Wilberforce University as Professor of Military Science and Tactics. Davis was assigned to the 369th Regiment, New York National Guard, during the summer of 1938, and took command of the Regiment a short time later. Davis was promoted to Brigadier General on 25 October 1940, becoming the first African-American General in the U.S. Army.

Davis became Commanding General of 4th Brigade, 2nd Cavalry Division at Fort Riley, KS, in January 1941. About six months later, he was assigned to Washington, DC, as an Assistant in the Office of the Inspector General. While serving in the Office of the Inspector General, Davis also served on the Advisory Committee on Negro Troop Problems. From 1941-44, Davis conducted inspection tours of African-American soldiers in the U.S. Army. From September-November 1942 and again from July-November 1944, Davis made inspection tours of African-American soldiers stationed in Europe.

On 10 November 1944, Davis was reassigned to work under Lieutenant General John C. H. Lee as Special Assistant to the Commanding General, Communications Zone, European Theater of Operations (ETO). He served with the General Inspectorate Section, ETO (later the Office of the Inspector General on Europe) from January-May 1945. While serving in the ETO, Davis was influential in the proposed policy of integration using replacement units.

After serving in the ETO for more than a year, Brigadier General Davis returned to Washington as Assistant to the Inspector General. In 1947, he was assigned as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. In this capacity, he was sent to Liberia in July 1947 as a representative of the U.S. for the African country's centennial celebration.

On 20 July 1948, after fifty years of military service, Davis retired in a public ceremony with President Harry S. Truman presiding.

Promotion History

First Lieutenant: 30 March 1905
Captain: 24 December 1915
Major (temporary): 5 August 1917
Lieutenant Colonel (temporary): 1 May 1918
Captain: 14 October 1919 (Reversion)
Lieutenant Colonel: 1 July 1920
Colonel: 18 February 1930
Brigadier General (temporary): 25 October 1940

Davis was retired on 31 July 1941 and recalled to active duty with the rank of Brigadier General the following day.

Medals and Awards

Distinguished Service Medal
Bronze Star Medal
Croix de Guerre with Palm (France)
Order of the Star of Africa in the Grade of Commander (Liberia)


Davis was awarded an Honorary Degree of LL.D. from Atlanta University, Atlanta, GA.

In Retirement

From July 1953 through June 1961, he served as a member of the American Battle Monuments Commission.


His son, Benjamin O. Davis Jr. became the first African-American four-star General in the U.S. Air Force.

Death and Burial

Brigadier General Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr. died on 26 November 1970 at Great Lakes Naval Hospital in Chicago, IL. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 2413   Created by: MHOH




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