John Reynolds Hawkins was born at Prescott, Arkansas, on November 30, 1899. He was graduated from the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, with a Bachelor of Science degree and commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Service on June 12, 1924.
His first assignment was to the Air Service Primary Flying School, Brooks Field, Texas, where he was graduated in March 1925. He then proceeded to Kelly Field, Texas, where he attended the Air Service Advanced Flying School. Upon graduation in September 1925, he was assigned to Langley Field, Virginia, where he joined the 11th Bombardment Squadron, and served as Squadron Supply Officer, Communications Officer, and Squadron Engineering Officer until April 1927. He then served with the 20th Bombardment Squadron for the next two months.
In June 1927 he was ordered to Brooks Field, Texas, for duty as a Flying Instructor at the Air Corps Primary Flying School, and in March 1929 went to March Field, Riverside, California, as a Flying Instructor. His next service was at Clark Field, Pampanga, Philippine Islands, where he served from October 1930 to September 1932 as Air Corps Station Supply Officer.
He returned to the United States, and in November 1932 proceeded to Randolph Field, Texas, as a Flying Instructor. He was detailed to Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, in March 1934 and took a course at the Air Corps Instrument Flying and Landing School. He then returned to Randolph Field, Texas, the following month to resume his duties as a Flying Instructor. In August 1935 he was named Flight Commander, “C” Flight, 46th School Squadron, at Randolph Field, and served in this capacity until August 1936 when he went to Maxwell Field, Alabama, as a student officer in the Air Corps Tactical School. He was graduated in June 1937 and then was assigned to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he was graduated from the Command and General Staff School in June 1938.
He then was ordered to Selfridge Field, Michigan, and became Operations Officer, 1st Pursuit Group, General Headquarters Air Force, and in December 1939 was named Operations Officer, 94th Pursuit Squadron, Selfridge Field. The following month he was designated Operations and Executive Officer, General Headquarters Air Force, 31st Pursuit Group, at Selfridge Field, and in January 1941 was assigned to command the 31st Pursuit Group, General Headquarters Air Force. He moved with this organization to Baer Field, Fort Wayne, Indiana, in January 1942, and the following May was assigned to the North African Theater of Operations, as Commander of the 31st Fighter Group.
In December 1942 he joined the Twelfth Air Force, and served, successively, as Chief of Staff, XII Air Support Command, and Chief of Staff, XII Air Service Command. He was named to command the 64th Fighter Wing, in the North African Theater of Operations, in July 1943, and served in this capacity until April 1944, when he became Commanding General, I Fighter Command, Mitchel Field, New York.
After reverting to the rank of colonel on April 30, 1946, he was named Chief of the United States Air Mission to Peru in November 1946.
On October 10, 1947, Colonel Hawkins and four other Air Force members and a Peruvian officer died in the crash of a C-47 aircraft in the Andes Mountains in Peru.
He was rated a Command Pilot, Combat Observer, and Aircraft Observer.
Cadet, U.S. Military Academy, June 17, 1918, to January 17, 1919, and from June 13, 1919, to January 21, 1921, and from July 1, 1921, to June 12, 1924; Second Lieutenant, Air Service, June 12, 1924; First Lieutenant, November 16, 1929, Captain, August 1, 1935; Major (temporary), March 11, 1940, to June 12, 1941; Major, A.U.S., January 31, 1941; Major, June 12, 1941; Lieutenant Colonel (temporary), November 15, 1941; Lieutenant Colonel, A.U.S., December 24, 1941; Colonel, A.U.S. (Air Corps), March 1, 1942; Colonel, A.U.S., December 29, 1942; Brigadier General, A.U.S., January 21, 1944; terminated Brigadier General, A.U.S., April 30, 1946; Colonel, A.U.S., December 29, 1942.
Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, World War I Victory Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in December 1942 with the following citation:
“For meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight and for exceptionally meritorious service in a position of great responsibility as Commanding Officer of a [31st] fighter group upon its arrival at Tafaraoui Airdrome, North Africa, on 8 November 1942. Colonel Hawkins displayed expert professional knowledge, sound judgement, and unusual energy in directing the mission of his command in the face of the enemy. His outstanding qualities of leadership aided materially in the success of the American occupation of North Africa.”