The Remarkable Life and Lasting Legacy of General Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr.

Posted: Feb 27, 2020 04:24 pm Updated: Oct 17, 2023 10:02 am

The life and impressive career of a Pensacola man who made U.S. Military history, Daniel “Chappie” James Jr., is still being honored today. James was born on February 11, 1920 in Pensacola, growing up in a home located just north of the downtown district at 1608 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. The home is now listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

James attended his mother’s private school, then graduated from Washington High School in Pensacola. He attended the Tuskegee Institute, becoming one of the famous Tuskegee Airmen and serving in the 99th Squadron. James became an American fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force and in 1975 became the first African American to reach the rank of Four-Star General in the Armed Forces. He flew 101 combat missions during the Korean War, 78 combat missions in the Vietnam War and received numerous military and civilian honors, including the George Washington Freedom Foundation Medal in 1967 and in 1968.

In Pensacola, the property where James grew up is now home to a Museum and Flight Academy and public memorial. The museum showcases James’ life and accomplishments, while the flight academy offers quality programs for youth. A group of African American pilots based at Naval Air Station Pensacola started the flight academy in 1996 and for more than two decades, students have received training in aviation basics and aerodynamics, as well as STEM lessons.

In early 2020, the nation joined the City of Pensacola in celebrating the 100th anniversary of General James’ birth, and the Pensacola City Council proclaimed February 11th General “Chappie” James Day. 

The Chappie James Museum of Pensacola is free and open to the public every Thurs-Sat from 11am - 3pm. For information, call 850-542-4721.