Silver stars were pinned yesterday on the shoulders of Russell C. Davis, commander of the D.C. Air National Guard's 22 F-4D Phantom jets, making him the nation's first black general in the Air Guard.
"Certainly there will be many," Davis, 44, of Arlington, told guard officers and relatives who gathered at the D.C. Armory yesterday for his promotion ceremony.
Davis' mother, Winfred, and Maj. Gen. Calvin G. Franklin, an Army National Guard officer who commands all D.C. guard units, pinned a star onto each of Davis' shoulders to mark him as a brigadier general, the lowest of the Air Guard's four ranks of general.
Davis, a native of Tuskegee, Ala., where a segregated flight school trained black pilots during World War II, will continue as commander of the 113th Tactical Fighter Wing, the major unit in the 1,300-member D.C. Air Guard. Its F-4D Phantom jets are based at Andrews Air Force Base.
Davis' promotion comes as the D.C. Air Guard, like many guard units nationwide, is attempting to put more minorities into command positions and to make its ranks reflect the local community's ethnic composition.
The regular Air Force first promoted a black to the rank of brigadier general in 1954. But the state-controlled guards, which in many parts of the country were closed to blacks altogether for years, have generally been slower to integrate and promote minority members to command positions.
Currently, about 15,000 of the 100,000 members of the Air National Guard are minorities.
About 40 percent of the D.C. Air Guard's enlisted personnel are black or other minorities as are 17 percent of its officers. That compares with 27 percent minorities in the enlisted ranks and 15 percent in the officer corps two years ago, according to a guard spokesman.
"We have made tremendous progress, but we still have a long way to go," Franklin said after the promotion ceremony. The D.C. guard, which accepts people from throughout the Washington area, has established a target of 60 percent black and 40 percent white membership.
Davis was commissioned as a regular Air Force officer in 1960 and flew B-47 bombers for the Strategic Air Command. He returned to civilian life in 1965 and worked as a corporate lawyer, flying fighters on weekends as a reservist. He returned to active military duty in 1978.