Frank Petersen Jr. Dies at age 83

The First African-American Marine Aviator and General, Frank Petersen Jr. Dies at age 83,  on Tuesday, August 25.

Frank Petersen Jr. made history when he became the first African-American aviator in the Marine Corps and then as the Corps’ first African-American brigadier general, after completing training in 1952.

According to media reports, his wife, Alicia said that Petersen died from lung cancer at his home in Stevensville, Maryland.

In his 38 years of service, Petersen has received many honors. He received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with Combat ‘V’, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Purple Heart.

Petersen was “a pioneer and warrior,” the Marine Corps said in announcing his death.

President Obama appointed Petersen to the Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy in 2010.

Frank E. Petersen Jr. was born on March 2, 1932 in Topeka, Kansas, a Topeka native and Topeka High graduate. He graduated in 1967 from George Washington University and later received his master’s degree while he was in the Marines.

After two years of service in the Navy, Peterson was commissioned as second lieutenant in the Marine Corps in 1952. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1979, becoming the first African-American to hold the rank in the Marine Corps. He flew more than 350 combat missions in Korea and Vietnam and has 4,000 military aircraft hours. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1988.

Petersen married Eleanor Burton in 1955. They had four children but it ended in a divorce. Later on, he married his second wife  Alicia Downes and had one daughter, one grandson and three great-grandchildren.

General Frank Petersen Jr. worked for DuPont as a vice president for corporate aviation after leaving the active military duty in 1988 and then left the corporate world in 1997. IMAGE/ Getty Images

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