First African-American academy graduate dies

Special to The Tribune
Posted

The first African-American to graduate from the Air Force Academy has died. Charles Vernon Bush, Class of 1963, died at his home in Lolo, Mont. Nov. 5 after battling colon cancer. He was 72.

Bush reported as a cadet in June 1959. He distinguished himself as a squadron commander, a member of the academy's debate team and a member of the Cadet Wing champion rugby team.

After graduating in 1963 Bush received his Master of Arts degree in International Relations from Georgetown University in June 1964 and was inducted into the Georgetown chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the National Political Science Honor Society.

He attended Air Intelligence Officers School and served at Westover Air Force Base where he taught undergraduate political science courses at American International College.

Bush became fluent in the Vietnamese language at Sanz Language School. He was assigned to Vietnam in 1967 as an intelligence officer. In Vietnam he was responsible for the deployment and operations of six intelligence teams operating from a number of sites including Saigon, Bien Hoa, Nha Trang, Pleiku, Da Nang and Can Tho. The teams were involved with significant intelligence operations, particularly involving the attack on Tan Son Nhut Air Base during the Tet Offensive of 1968 and the defense of the Marines and South Vietnamese at the Battle of Khe Sanh.

After he returned Bush was assigned to Headquarters Air Force Special Projects Production Facility at Westover AFB. He resumed teaching political science courses at American International College.

In 1970 Bush resigned his commission and attended Harvard Business School majoring in finance. He spent the rest of his professional career in numerous business enterprises serving as manager and senior corporate executive.

Included among his many distinguished business and academic activities Bush was an Academy Falcon Foundation Trustee and a guest lecturer at the academy's department of management. He was a diversity consultant for both the Air Force and Air Force Academy.

Bush received many accolades in both his military and civilian careers. While in the Air Force he received the Bronze Star Medal, Joint Services Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.

"The United States Air Force Academy is saddened to learn of the passing of one our most notable graduates, Chuck Bush," academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould said. "Our hearts go out to Tina, Chip, Kyra, Bettina and all of the Bush family.”

"A member of the Class of 1963 and the first African-American graduate, Mr. Bush's courage and commitment to enhancing diversity in the United States military will pay itself forward for many generations," Gould added. "The academy family is truly proud to call Mr. Chuck Bush one of our own."

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