Lloyd “Fig” Newton: The First Black Person To Perform As A Pilot With U.S. Air Force Aerial Demonstration Team

Lloyd Fig Newton


Lloyd “Fig” Newton became the first black pilot with the United States Air Force Aerial Demonstration Team, the Thunderbirds, in 1974. He took advantage of the opportunity left by others who flew in World War II. Newton worked as an advance coordinator, narrator, slot pilot, and right wing for the elite performance group.

Newton was born in Ridgeland, South Carolina. In 1961, he graduated from Jasper High School. Later, he received a bachelor’s degree in aviation education from Tennessee State University, as well as a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University. He also completed three post-graduate military courses.


The nickname “Fig” was bestowed on the general during his senior year of college by a classmate, Howard Baugh, the son of the ROTC detachment commander at Tennessee State.



Lloyd Fig Newton


In 1967, General Newton completed his pilot training at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona. Soon after, he was assigned to George Air Force Base to undergo F-4 Phantom training in preparation for service in Vietnam. Newton flew 269 combat missions during the Vietnam War, including 79 over North Vietnam from Da Nang Air Base.


Following the completion of his tour, he was assigned to the 405th Tactical Fighter Wing at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. When he returned to the United States in 1974, he became an F-4 instructor at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, and later a member of the legendary Thunderbirds.


General Newton completed his tour with The Thunderbirds by transitioning to F-16 fighters at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. He was later assigned as assistant deputy commander for operations to the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea. General Newton was a command pilot with over 4,000 hours of flight time.


He was in charge of the 71st Air Base Group and the 71st Flying Training Wing. He was awarded the Legion of Merit with an oak leaf cluster, the Distinguished Flying Cross with an oak leaf cluster, and several other decorations.


Written by How Africa News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

5 − three =

Jose Torres: Former Boxing World Champion And Olympic Medalist From Puerto Rico

Get To Know Wendy Raquel Robinson, An Afro-American Actress