A PERSON WITH THE RIGHT ATTITUDE: GENERAL DANIEL “CHAPPY” JAMES [1920-1978]

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Nothing can stop the person with the right attitude toward achieving his personal goals in life. The right attitude directs one to use his abilities to gain the maximum from them. 

Nowhere is this principle better illustrated than in the story of General Daniel (“Chappy”) James. The youngest of seventeen children, James was born in a poor black section of Pensacola in 1920. 

Since Pensacola is the home of U.S. Naval Air, James grew up watching the sky full of Naval training planes everyday. At age twelve, he did odd jobs around an airport to earn plane rides and flying lessons. His dream was to fly for the Navy, but at that time no blacks were allowed to become pilots in the armed services. 

After high school James went to Tuskegee Institute, where he played football and earned a B.S. in Physical Education. In 1942 James completed pilot training at the Institute under the government-sponsored Civilian Pilot Training Program – a special program for black pilots. He served, until early 1943, as a civilian instructor in the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program at Tuskegee, the first program to train black aviators for the Air Corps. 

James then earned his commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Corps. For the next six years, he served with various fighter squadrons in the United States. At the time black pilots were not accepted socially or provided with equal opportunities. James was actively involved in several protests to provide equality for blacks in the military. In 1948 President Truman ordered the armed forces integrated. 

General Daniel "Chappie" James, Jr.In Korea, James flew 101 combat missions and earned his captain’s bars. In 1956, by now a lieutenant colonel, James attended the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base. His next assignment was United States Air Force in Washington, D.C., where he served in the Air Defense Division. For the next ten years he gained command experience in tactical fighter units at the squadron and wing levels. 

Colonel James’ next assignment was a deputy assistant secretary of defense. During this period in his career, he became one of the nation’s most prolific public speakers. More promotions and responsibilities followed, and on September 1, 1975, General James received his fourth star, the first black ever to attain that rank. He also became commander in chief of the North American Air Defense Command. 

Though he started life under circumstances that would have defeated lesser men, Chappy James pressed on. Why? Because he had the right attitude. He would quote his mother as saying, “Even though we are black and poor, you are one of God’s children and … you can, with the right attitude, achieve high goals in life by developing character, working hard, and keeping your mind on your definite objective and continually striving for it with faith that it will be achieved.” 

SOURCE: George Shinn, The Miracle of Motivation, Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1981, pages177-178. 

Jakarta, 3 February 2014 

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