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Chief grasp Sgt. Dorothy Holmes, the very first black mrs to earn the highest possible enlisted rank in the waiting Force, hold a copy of the tribute Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter read to her on the floor that the house in 2014. Holmes passed far Feb. 17. (Photo courtesy that The retired Enlisted Association)
Retired Chief master Sergeant Dorothy Holmes blazed countless trails during her three decades in the wait Force.

You are watching: First black chief master sergeant of the air force

She to be the very first black woman to reach the wait Force’s highest enlisted rank. She was the first woman to retire with 30 year of continuous service in the wait Force. And also she to be the first female chief master sergeant to it is in assigned come the Air pressure Academy.


But a friend, retired military Master Sgt. George Smith, remembers her as a wonderful human being who was funny to be roughly — yet one with tiny patience for nonsense, who can grab people’s attention with her commanding voice.

“She would tell it favor it is, and whether friend would favor to hear that or not, she would certainly tell it,” Smith said in an interview Friday. “She had actually a many on the ball.”

Smith, who operated with “Dottie” Holmes at The retirement Enlisted combination in the 1980s, remembered how they would certainly visit lawmakers on Capitol Hill to urge them to present or poll for pieces of legislation that would assist seniors and also veterans. And, he claimed laughing, if one of those lawmakers appeared dismissive of your concerns, Holmes would put him in his place.


“Sometimes, the congressman would certainly say, ‘Well, friend know, that thing is no important,"” blacksmith said. “And she would certainly hop ~ above something choose that — ‘What perform you typical it’s no important?’ and you’d uncover that congressman sort of crawfishing a little bit: ‘Well, er, um, ns didn’t average it that way, Ms. Holmes.’ Later, as soon as we’d get earlier together, we would certainly laugh around it, how it showed up that she was simply a small kind lady, but when she time involves talk, she wouldn’t hesitate."

Holmes passed far on Feb. 17 in ~ the age of 91, and also a memorial company will be held for her Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

She to be born in Philadelphia ~ above Aug. 1, 1927, and joined the Air force in might 1949, according to she obituary. She started her career in Texas, but spent time in locations such together Germany, Japan, Thailand, Puerto Rico, Louisiana, Washington, D.C., and also South Dakota end the next three decades.


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Chief understand Sgt. Dorothy Holmes in one undated photo included with she obituary. (Holmes family)

She play a critical role in integrating woman cadets right into the formerly all-male Air pressure Academy in ~ Colorado Springs.


In 1976, Brig. Gen. Stanley Beck, that was climate the academy’s commandant the cadets, personally asked because that Holmes come come assist with the integration.


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Commentary: Military tradition is rich through African-American contributionsBlack history Month offers the chance for us to it is in curious, come look around, and also to learn more about the contribute made by African-Americans come our country.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., paid tribute to Holmes on the floor the the home of to represent in 2014, and also said she “serve as a role model and mentor for the first class of mrs cadets.”

Holmes’ obituary claimed she became deputy assistant come the superintendent because that plans, programs and policies and “strove to make her job one that helped all cadets.”

Holmes was crucial in helping establish female cadets there, and setting up equal chance programs in ~ the academy, her obituary states. She likewise was a guest lecturer plenty of times in classes there, in enhancement to she administrative, counseling and mentoring duties.


“Through her courageous service, cook Holmes charted the path for future generations of females to offer in the military,” Perlmutter said in 2014.

When Holmes retirement after nearly three years at the academy, former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm authorize an executive, management order declaring May 31, 1979, as Chief grasp Sergeant Dorothy W. Holmes Day. She ongoing to volunteer at Peterson Air pressure Base in Colorado, not far from the academy, in retirement.

She likewise served as president that the females in the Air force Association because that 25 years, follow to she obituary. Indigenous 1948 to 1976, women in the Air pressure pushed to expand the methods for ladies in the service. In 2016, Holmes to visit a reunion of nearly 70 members of the females in the Air force program at joint Base san Antonio-Lackland in Texas.

And she served two terms as nationwide president the The retirement Enlisted Association.


Holmes treasured she time in the wait Force, smith said, and often looked ago fondly top top those days. If anybody stated anything bad about her lover service, she’d challenge them immediately, he added.

She received the Legion of Merit for her job-related at the academy, and her other decorations contained the Meritorious organization Medal and the Air force Commendation Medal.

The Air pressure in 2009 posted digital a photograph of Holmes visiting Peterson in ~ a retiree recognition reception. She said the airmen in ~ Peterson throughout that visit that she hadn’t intended to make whole career the end of the Air force when she joined, yet she stayed because she loved her assignments and her work.

Holmes’ memorial service, with armed forces honors, will be hosted Saturday in ~ Angelus Chapel Funeral director in Colorado Springs.


Stephen Losey consists leadership and also personnel issues as the an elderly reporter for Air pressure Times. He originates from an Air force family, and his investigative reports have won awards from the society of professional Journalists. He has traveled come the Middle east to covering Air pressure operations versus the Islamic State.


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