Julius W. Becton Jr., who had a 40-year career in the U.S. military and later served as president of historically Black Prairie View A&M University in Texas, died late last month at a retirement community in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. He was 97 years old.
A native of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, He joined the Army in 1994 right out of high school. He served in the segregated 93rd Infantry Division in the South Pacific during World War II. He was wounded twice during the Korean War and served in the 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War. When he retired in 1983, Lt. General Becton was the second-highest-ranking African American in the U.S. Army. During his service, he earned a bachelor’s degree at Prairie View A&M University and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Maryland.
In 1985, General Becton was appointed by President Reagan to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Then in 1989, he was appointed the fifth president of Prairie View A&M University. He served in that role until August 31, 1994.
General Becton later served as superintendent of the Washington, D.C., public schools. He was the author of Becton: Autobiography of a Soldier and Public Servant (Naval Institute Press, 2008).