Daniel James III makes own mark in Air Force history

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The son of the Air Force's first African-American four-star general made a mark in his own right during an Air Force career spanning close to four decades.

Lt. Gen. Daniel James III was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, on Sept. 7, 1945. He earned his commission as a distinguished graduate of the University of Arizona's Air Force ROTC program in 1968.

Daniel James III is the first African-American to hold the post of Director of the Air National Guard. He assumed that command in 2002 following a flying career that included more than 300 combat missions in Southeast Asia and 4,000 flying hours. James, who retired in 2006, also served as Texas Adjutant General during his distinguished 38-year military career.

He is the son of Daniel "Chappie" James Jr., who was the Air Force's first African-American four-star general.

James was commissioned in 1968 and served as a forward air controller during the Southeast Asia War. In 1969-1970 he logged more than 500 combat hours flying O-1E Bird Dog aircraft based at Cam Ranh Bay, Republic of Vietnam.

Returning to Southeast Asia in 1974-75, he served as a squadron assistant flight commander at Udorn Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, flying as a fighter pilot in F-4 Phantom aircraft. His postwar U.S. assignments were in the West and Southwest, where he served with units in California, Arizona and Texas. In December 1994 he became operations group commander of the Texas Air Guard's 149th Fighter Wing.

Promoted to lieutenant general in 2002, James became the 11th director of the Air National Guard that year following his nomination by President George W. Bush and U.S. Senate confirmation. As ANG director, James was responsible for more than 104,000 Airmen in 88 flying units in the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

Among his numerous awards are the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and seven Air Medals. James has also received several service awards for his work as a community leader.

He retired from military service on May 10, 2006.

During his retirement ceremony, James's wife, Dana, and son, Daniel, were among those who gathered for the farewell ceremony. Recognizing the director's tireless, seemingly continuous travel obligations to fulfill duties around the world, officers gave him a gift certificate for a recliner. They also said it seemed unlikely that the director would use it very much, even in retirement, because of his hard-charging personality.