The commanders: Admirals and generals in the United States military

October 21, 2021

On October 25, 1940, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., was appointed Brigadier General in the United States Army by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, becoming the first African American general in the history of the United States Military. Since then nearly 400 other African American women and men have been appointed to that rank. The highest rank in the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps is General (four star), followed by Lieutenant General (three star), Major General (two star) and Brigadier General (one star). Five men have held the rank of General of the Army (five star), George C. Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, and Henry H. Arnold, who later became the only five-star general in the Air Force. The five-star rank is no longer attainable. In the Navy the top rank is “Admiral” (four star) followed by Vice Admiral (three star), and Rear Admiral (two star). In the Navy the rank of Fleet Admiral is rarely given. Only four men, William D. Leahy, Ernest J. King, Chester W. Nimitz, and William F. Halsey, Jr., have been named Fleet Admiral.

Listed below are African American men and women who have attained the rank of Admiral in the Navy or General in the Army or Air Force. No African American has yet attained the rank of General in the Marine Corps.

Additionally there are profiles of other significant African generals and admirals along with the black generals and admirals who have served in the military in other nations. As with all BlackPast.org compilations, this is a work in progress. If there are other commanders who have achieved the rank of admiral or general and you feel should be listed here, please send their names to suggestions@blackpast.org, or better still volunteer to write entries on them.

The United States:
Four Star Navy Admirals along with the year of their appointment

• Joseph Paul Reason, 1997
• Cecil Eugene Diggs Haney, 2012
• Janine Michelle Howard, 2014

Other Admirals:
• Samuel Lee Gravely
• Gerald E. Thomas
• Lawrence Chambers
• Audrey F. Manley
• Joycelyn M. Elders
• David L. Brewer III
• David Satcher
• Lillian Fishburne
• Barry C. Black
• Regina Marcia Benjamin

Four Star Army Generals along with the year of their appointment
• Roscoe Robinson, Jr., 1982
• Colin Powell, 1989
• Johnnie E. Wilson, 1996
• Larry R. Ellis, 2001
• William Ward. 2006
• Lloyd J. Austin, 2010
• Dennis Via, 2012
• Vincent K. Brooks 2013

Other Army Generals:
• Benjamin O. Davis Sr.
• Frederic E. Davison
• John Q. Taylor King
• Julius W. Becton
• Hazel Johnson
• Arthur J. Gregg
• Henry Doctor, Jr.
• Edward Honor, Sr.
• Calvin Augustine Hoffman Waller
• Marvin Delano Brailsford
• Andrew P. Chambers, Jr.
• James Reginald Hall, Jr.
• Fred A. Gordon
• Robert Earl Gray
• Joe Nathan Ballard
• Samuel Emanuel Ebbesen
• Billy King Solomon
• Larry R. Jordan
• Russel L. Honoré
• Alonzo Earl Short, Jr.
• Francis Xavier Taylor
• Michael D. Rochelle

Four Star Air Force Generals along with the year of their appointment
• Daniel “Chappie” James, 1975
• Bernard P. Randolph, 1987
• Lloyd W. Newton, 1997
• Lester Lyles, 1999
• Edward A. Rice, Jr., 2010
• Larry O. Spencer, 2014
• Darren W. McDew, 2014

Other Air Force Generals:
• Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.
• Albert J. Edmonds
• William E. Brown, Jr.
• Marcelite J. Harris
• John D. Hopper
• Stayce D. Harris
• Richard M. Clark

There are no Four Star Marine Generals: Here are
Other Marine Generals
• Frank E. Peterson, Jr.
• J. Gary Cooper
• Ronald S. Coleman

The Coast Guard:
Admirals
• Erroll M. Brown
• Stephen Rochon
• Manson K. Brown

State Adjutant Generals:
The State Adjutant General (TAG) is the de facto commander of a state’s military forces including the Army National Guard, Air Force National Guard, the naval militia, and all other state defense forces in peacetime. The Adjutant General is usually appointed by the governor of a state. Listed below are the individuals who have served in this capacity along with their respective states and the dates of their appointment.

• Daniel James III, Texas, 1995
• Joseph C. Carter, Massachusetts, 2007
• Errol R. Schwartz, District of Columbia, 2008
• Michael Calhoun, Florida, 2015

Other Army National Guard Generals:
• Walter J. Whitfield
• Julia Jeter Cleckley
• Rufus Smith
• Owen Monconduit
• David Fleming
• Wayne L. Black

Other Air National Guard Generals:
• James T. Whitehead, Jr.
• Russell C. Davis
• Jackson L. Davis, III
• Ernest George Talbert
• Garry C. Dean

Other Uniformed Services:
• Evelyn J. Fields, NOAA

Other Nations:

France:
• Thomas Alexandre Dumas

Haiti:
• Toussaint L’Overture
• Jean Jacques Dessalines
• Henri Christophe

Liberia:
• Joseph Jenkins Roberts

Russia:
• Abram Petrovich Hannibal

South Africa (The Zulu Empire)
• Shaka Zulu

Venezuela:
• Jose Prudencio Lopez Padilla
• Manuel Carlos Piar

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