Nov 5, 2012 7:10 PM by JD Downing
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - The first African-American to graduate from the Air Force Academy passed away today at his home in Lolo, Mont.
Charles Vernon Bush, Class of 1963, entered the Academy with his two
African-American classmates, reporting 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.
Having received academic course credits from Howard University, Bush
was accepted into a special joint Academy/Georgetown University Masters
program, commencing with graduate courses in his senior year, which included
his oral comprehensives in the Russian language.
Graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1963, Bush received
his Master of Arts degree in International Relations from Georgetown
University in June 1964, and was inducted in to the Georgetown chapter of Pi
Sigma Alpha, the National Political Science Honor Society.
He then attended Air Intelligence Officers School, and served at
Westover AFB, Mass., where, among his other activities, he taught
undergraduate political science courses at American International College.
After becoming fluent in the Vietnamese language at Sanz Language School, in
Washington, D.C, he was assigned to Vietnam in 1967as an intelligence
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.
Returning to the United States in May 1968, Bush was again assigned
to Headquarters Air Force Special Projects Production Facility, at Westover
AFB, as chief, Technical Analysis Division. He resumed teaching political
science courses at American International College.
In 1970, Bush resigned his commission, then 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 in such companies as Merrill Lynch-White Weld Capital
Group, Max Factor, and Hughes Electronics.
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," said Lt. Gen. Mike
Gould, Academy Superintendent. "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
continued. "The Academy family is truly proud to call Mr. Chuck Bush one of