Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr. (July 1, 1877 - November 26, 1970), the nation's first African American general in the Regular Army, was born in Washington, D.C. Davis first served as a temporary first lieutenant of the 8th U.S. Volunteer Infantry during the Spanish-American War. Following that conflict, he enlisted as a private in the 9th U.S. Cavalry, serving in the Philippine Insurrection where he began to rise in rank. Davis was promoted to first lieutenant in 1905, captain in 1915, lieutenant colonel in 1920, colonel in 1930, and brigadier general in 1941. His military career took him around the world. In 1909, he was detailed as Military Attache to Monrovia, Liberia. During World War I, Davis was stationed in the Philippines. In 1938, he took command of the New York's African American 396th National Guard Infantry, later known as the 369th Coast Artillery (Antiaircraft) Regiment.
During World War II, Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr. was assigned to the European Theater of Operations in September 1942 on special duty as advisor on race relations. He retired from military service on July 14, 1948 after fifty years of service. His decorations and honors include: the Distinguished Service Medal and Bronze Star Medal, the Croix de Guerre with Palm from France, and the Grade of Commander of the Star of Africa from Liberia. Throughout his illustrious military career, his connection to Wilberforce University was strong, serving as Professor of Military Science and Tactics on four different occasions: 1905-1909, 1915-1917, 1929-1930, and 1937-1938. Brigadier General Davis is buried in Section 2 of Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.