Retired Gen. Russell E. Dougherty, shown here in his official photo, died Sept. 7 at his home in Potomac Falls, Va. His last assignment was commander in chief of Strategic Air Command, (U.S. Air Force photo)
Retired Gen. Russell E. Dougherty died Sept. 7 at his home in Potomac Falls, Va. His last assignment was commander in chief of Strategic Air Command. He also served as executive director of the Air Force Association from 1980 to 1986. (U.S. Air Force photo)
9/12/2007 - ARLINGTON, Va. (AFPN) -- Retired Gen. Russell E. Dougherty, former commander in chief of Strategic Air Command, died Sept. 7 at his home in Potomac Falls, Va.
He also served as executive director of the Air Force Association, an independent nonprofit organization that promotes aerospace power, from 1980 to 1986.
"The Air Force Association and Airmen everywhere have lost a great friend," said AFA Chairman of the Board Bob Largent. "General Dougherty was an incomparable leader, a true icon for the United States Air Force and the Air Force Association.
"Always displaying an infectious smile and ready with a quick story to illustrate a cogent point, Russ Dougherty made a significant impact upon everyone with whom he came into contact," Mr. Largent said. "He served our nation with great honor, and while we will deeply miss him, we will continue to benefit from his leadership and his wisdom for an eternity. We extend our sympathies to the Dougherty family. They remain in our thoughts and prayers."
A strategic thinker and planner, as commander of SAC, General Dougherty oversaw the most lethal nuclear arsenal in the world, including bombers, tankers, reconnaissance aircraft and intercontinental ballistic missiles. He was considered an airpower visionary and served on various government and commercial defense-related boards after retiring from the Air Force.
He was an attorney, a command pilot and a master missileman. His military decorations and awards included the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Bronze Star Medal, and the Joint Service Commendation Medal. He received the AFA Lifetime Achievement award in 2004.
Born in Glasgow, Kentucky, General Dougherty was a graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Law School of the University of Louisville. After working for the FBI and serving in the Kentucky National Guard's 123rd Cavalry, he entered active military service as an aviation cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps at the outbreak of World War II. In 1947, he served as a unit instructor with the Air Force Reserve at Standiford Field, Louisville, Ky.
A judge advocate in the late '40s, he moved from the legal world to fly bombers and refuelers. His post-World War II assignments encompassed Air Force, joint and international operations, maintenance and administration as well as political/military and command duties. He retired from the Air Force Oct. 1, 1977.
During the last commanders' conference for Strategic Air Command in 1992 at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., the last SAC commander in chief, Gen. George Lee Butler, announced he wanted to honor General Dougherty, his mentor. As a result, the Strategic Planning Center was renamed The Dougherty Conference Center.
In addition to numerous military awards and decorations, he was honored with five honorary doctorate degrees, and was an "Old Master" of Purdue University. He is survived by his wife Barbara, son, Mark, and daughter, Diane (DeDe) Ralston. A son, Bryant, and first wife, Geralee Shaaber, preceded him in death.
(Courtesy of Air Force Association Policy and Communications)