1997 32¢ Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr.
Black Heritage Series
Issue Date: January 28, 1997
City: Washington, DC
Printed By: Banknote Corp. of America
Printing Method: Lithographed
Perforations: Serpentine die cut11.4
The first black brigadier general and a driving force in the eventual integration of the U.S. armed forces, Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr. became the 20th American honored in the Black Heritage Series.
Born July 1, 1877 in Washington, D.C., Davis devoted much of his life to a distinguished military career that spanned 50 years. Enlisting as a private in the military service on July 13, 1898, he rose through the ranks, and in 1905 received a promotion to first lieutenant. That same year he also began teaching as a professor of military science at Wilberforce University in Ohio. He later taught at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama as well. Promoted to colonel in 1930, he went on to become the first black soldier to achieve the rank of general in 1940.
During World War II Davis served in the European theater. As an adviser on race relations, he championed the idea of an all-inclusive armed services. On July 26, 1948, six days after Davis retired, President Truman issued the order ending racial discrimination in the military.
The stamp shows Davis at the height of his career, on an inspection tour of the American front in France in 1944. His son, Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr., commander of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, went on to become the first black three-star lieutenant general in the U.S. armed forces.