Four Star General Lloyd W. Newton

General Lloyd newton flew 269 combat missions in Vietnam and was selected to join the U.S. Air Force Aerial Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, in November 1974. He was the first African American to become a pilot for the Thunderbirds.He was a command pilot with more than 4,000 flying hours in the T-37, T-38, F-4, F-15, F-16, C-12 and the F-117 stealth fighter.

Four Star General Lloyd "Fig" Newton served as the Director of Operations, United States Special Operations Command and as the Assistant Vice Chief of Staff Headquarters U.S. Air Force. Newton culminated his Air Force career as the Commander, Air Education and Training Command where he was responsible for recruiting, training and education for all Air Force personnel. His command consisted of 13 bases, 43,000 active duty personnel and 14,000 civilians. At 54 Lloyd Newton was the only African Four Star General in the Air Force.

Lloyd Newton was born in Ridgeland, South Carolina, where he graduated from Jasper High School. As a child, Newton often stood in the fields of the family farm in Ridgeland, South Carolina, watching airplanes flying overhead but not thinking about being a pilot, he said.  At that time, military uniforms fascinated him more than airplanes. His interest in flying was also sparked in 1964 when he saw the Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team perform during his junior year of college.  He said he became consumed with a burning desire to be a Thunderbird.  At the time, the team had never had an African-American pilot.  That didn't deter Lloyd Newton. 

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in aviation education and commissioned a Second Lieutenant from Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee in 1966. In 1985, he received a Master of Arts degree in Public Administration from George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

General Newton retired from service in 2000 after thirty four years of service to the country in the United States Air Force. After his retirement, Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton, became the Vice President for International Programs and Business Development for Pratt & Whitney Military Engines in East Hartford, Connecticut. As Vice President, he is responsible for international military sales, assessing U.S. military requirements and developing business for Pratt’s military engine services. He leads a team of 45 personnel who manages a host of domestic and international customers with a sales target of nearly $1 Billion.

In 2008 Newton endorsed Barack Obama for President and appeared on stage at the Democratic National Convention at Invesco Field with other former military leaders to lend support to Obama's campaign.

General Newton has received numerous awards and honors. In 1997 Newton received an Honorary doctorate in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, and in 1999 an honorary  doctor of science degree from Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. Other awards and honors include: Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Meritorious Service ribbon, Air Medal ribbon with 16 oak leaf clusters,  Air Force Commendation Medal, Outstanding Unit  Award with "V" device and two oak leaf clusters, Vietnam Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation (Philippines), and the Vietnam Medal.

Click on the links below for detailed information and photos on African American veterans who rose to the top of their field

Revolutionary & Civil War

The Revolutionary War set precedents for black military service. Both Africans and African Americans fought on both sides of this war, often as a means for a black slave to win his freedom.

World War I

When World War I broke out, there were four all-black regiments: the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry.

World War II

African Americans made up over one million of the more than 16 million U.S. men and women to serve in World War II. Some of these men served in infantry, artillery, and tank units.

Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American military aviators in the United States armed forces.

Vietnam War & Iraq

The Vietnam War saw the highest proportion of blacks ever to serve in an American war. During the height of the U.S. involvement blacks, who formed 11 percent of the American population, made up 12.6 percent of the soldiers in Vietnam.


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