Lloyd Newton: Served as the First Black Air Force Thunderbird

1 Posted by - July 26, 2023 - Black First, BLACK MEN, BLACKS IN THE MILITARY, LATEST POSTS

Lloyd Newton served as the first black Air Force Thunderbird. Newton was a general in the Air Force, educator, and administrator.

He was born on December 24, 1942, in Ridgeland, South Carolina, to tenant farmers. His parents worked the land with Newton right alongside them, which taught him to appreciate the value of hard labor.

Newton attended segregated schools in South Carolina and ultimately graduated from Jasper High School. After high school, Newton enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Tennessee State University in Nashville. He was named a Distinguished Graduate of the program, receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Aviation Education and a commission as an officer in the United States Air Force.

He later completed pilot training and became a fighter pilot in the F-4D Phantom II. He flew 269 combat missions during the Vietnam War, including 79 missions over North Vietnam. From the beginning of his career in the Air Force, General Newton wanted to become a member of the elite flying demonstration team, the Thunderbirds. Ten years after entering the Air Force, he achieved his goal, becoming the first African American pilot to join that elite team.

As a Thunderbird, he held several positions, such as narrator, slot pilot and right wingman. From 1978 to 1982, he was assigned as an Air Force congressional liaison officer with the U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. From 1993 to 1995, he was director of operations, J-3, of the United States Special Operations Command.

General Newton is one of 11 four-star generals in the United States Air Force. From from 1997 to 2000, he was commander of Air Education and Training Command at the Randolph Air Force Base in Texas, where he recruited, trained, and educated all Air Force personnel. He has received a number of awards and accolades, such as the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Meritorious Service Medal.





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  • GERALD S MCSEE/ RET/AF February 1, 2020 - 9:12 am

    At 81yo my memory is not the best, smile. But I recall that in about 1969-1960 I met my first Black Officer/Capt/ Pilot. I was on duty as a shuttle driver carrying pilots to and from quarters. I had a bad attitude (racially motivated) and tired of being called ‘boy or driver’ instead of my name or rank, I would ignore and be slow in responding.
    On the second call I yelled back, ‘Just a minute” and looked up to see who the pilot was. Out of surprise and pride I couldn’t wait to get to him. In the BOQ quarters he invited me in and began a casual meaningful conversation about education. I took to heart his guidance of me increasing my reading level.
    Well in about 1970 I heard that the first Black Blue angels was killed as he flew is plan into the grown. Now maybe Gen Newton was the first General but it seems that that other Black officer was the first in Blue Angles. That Black fighter pilot returned from a mission during the Vietnam war.
    I would appreciate you setting my memory correct as to who was who. Either way I was and am proud of any/all Black pilot officers. I did have the privilege to meet both the Gen David’s at my last station at Andrews AFB after they had retired.