Congratulations to Col. (soon to be Gen.) Elam

This came in from the S.C. National Guard today:

COLUMBIA – Colonel Calvin Elam becomes the South Carolina Air National Guard’s first African American general officer when he is promoted to the rank of brigadier general this Sunday.col-elam


South Carolina’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr., will promote Elam during a 3 p.m. ceremony at McEntire Joint National Guard Base on Jan. 13.


“Cal has had a long and distinguished career in the Air Force and the South Carolina Air National Guard and this promotion to brigadier general culminates many years of hard work and dedicated service to his state and nation.  He is the epitome of the Citizen-Airman,” said Livingston.


Elam currently serves as the Assistant Adjutant General for Air for the South Carolina National Guard. As a civilian, he is Chief Executive Officer for Elam Financial Group.


The Greenwood native began his military career in 1980 and spent six years in the active duty Air Force as an enlisted contracting specialist. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1988 after graduating from the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business with a degree in business marketing.


Elam since has served in several key leadership positions with the South Carolina Air National Guard including Chief of Supply, Commander of the 169th Maintenance Squadron and Commander of the 169th Mission Support Group. Elam, his wife Mary and their three children reside in Irmo.


This takes me back to memories of the first black general in the Air Force, Benjamin O. Davis Jr. (whose father had been the first black general in the Army). He was the former commander of the Tuskegee Airmen, and my Dad worked for him at what is now called Central Command in Tampa back in the late ’60s.

Gen. Davis first became a general officer in 1954. That just puts SC about 59 years behind, but better late than never.

In any case, congratulations to Col. (soon to be Gen.) Elam…

10 thoughts on “Congratulations to Col. (soon to be Gen.) Elam

  1. Steven Davis II

    And if he had been white, there would be no news. Liberals scream about racism, yet they’re the first to cheer over “First African-American XXXXXXX”. Why don’t we hear about the first Jewish General, or the first Polish General, or the first Female, Left Handed General?

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    Who was cheering? What “liberals” are you talking about? I’m the only one here, and I am not a liberal, and I wasn’t cheering. I simply noted something that this reminded me of (Gen. Davis), noted how long ago that was, and congratulated the colonel.

    Which I would think you, or anyone else, would be willing to do. That’s what we do when someone gets a promotion. Particularly when you have reason to believe the promotion is well-deserved, as I do, since it is coming from Gen. Livingston — and everyone I know who has served under him has great respect for his leadership. This is one of these instances in which our bizarre system that should not exist — the popular election of the A.G. — gave us a good commanding officer, to the best of my knowledge.

    1. Steven Davis II

      I don’t recall you ever congratulating any other Colonel who was promoted to General. The only reason you did this time was because of his race.

      Besides being a General in the SC National Guard really isn’t that big of a deal, go down to Doc’s or Bernie’s Chicken and you’ll find a half-dozen of them eating lunch. The last time I was at Bernie’s there were three of them sitting at one table, I believe they made the Colonel sitting with them bus the table.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    Yeah, it was news, Steven. If you have trouble understanding that, I refer you to the history of South Carolina.

    As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am not into Identity Politics. Our liberal friends occasionally give me grief about that. But there is something worth noting about our Air Guard, an institution that should be merit-based but is historically highly political (in the partisan and electoral sense), finally having a black general, almost 60 years after that happened in the Air Force.

    The Guard in SC has a quirky history. One of my ancestors, a great-great-grandfather, is known to the family as “General Bradley” — because he was elected to that position in the militia. (He also served in the Legislature, both before and after the War.) But in the Confederate army, he was just a captain — and that only because he raised his own company. One of the legends in the family, much repeated, is that for one of his ranks — before he was a general — he beat out a relative of John C. Calhoun’s in the voting.

    As I said above, we seem to have a good A.G. in Gen. Livingston. But that’s in spite of the fact that we elect the position, in partisan elections — something that flies in the face of the American model for the relationship between the military and political leadership.

    When I was a kid I lived in a country, in South America, where the military and politics were all mixed together. In fact, we had a military coup while I was there, and a junta ran the country the rest of the time we were there. Not a good way to run a constitutional liberal democracy, which is why we don’t do it that way, except in South Carolina…

    1. Steven Davis II

      Would this be the same Civil War where commissions were handed out based on social ranking? That if you were of the finest family, you skipped O-1 to O-3 and were either given the rank of Major or higher?

      Actually it sounds almost like it is today… if you spend enough time as an officer in the SC National Guard you’ll be promoted based purely on time served. How many generals are there in the SC National Guard? How many at a real military base such as Shaw AFB? Like I’ve said I saw three SCNG Generals in one restaurant at one time, I doubt that that was all three of them, more likely about 10% of them.

  4. Ralph Hightower

    Congratulations to General Elam. Calvin Elam is not a name that resonates off my tongue since I know nothing about the guy.

    However, Columbia’s native son, Charles Bolden…
    My wife and I met him and his mother at the Red Lobster in West Columbia on December 20, 1986, when he was taking a break from his NASA astronaut duties. Back then, he was a Lieutenant Colonel
    Now, he is a retired General and now administrator of NASA.

    We were having lunch when I saw this family come in. I reckonized Bolden and his mother because both were on the local news in the aftermath of Challenger. I waited until they were about to leave before introducing ourselves since I didn’t want to interrupt their meal.

    There were two African-Americans prior to Bolden flying in space, Guion Bluford of PA and Ron McNair from Lake City. But Bolden was a pilot of two Space Shuttle missions and later, commander of two other Space Shuttle missions.

    It was an honor for me to meet Lt. Col. Charles Bolden.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I had never seen that before. That’s some edgy satire. I’ve been rewatching Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” recently. The satirist certainly got the tone right…

        1. Silence

          That’s an oldie, but a goodie. It took me a few minutes to realize that it wasn’t Ken Burns the first time I saw it.

  5. David Dean


    If you are going to commend and use General Officers as role models the Davis’ are poor role models. They were sub-standard officers at best, were attracted women who were not married to them, and had a romance with John Barlycorn. Junior was open when he traveled he took his “health and comfort” on duty Air Force mistress with him. The General you are praising left active duty as an 0-5, went to the National Guard. This means he was at max promotion on active duty. Best qualified minority? Probably. Apparently he is going to a staff position, not a troop command, speaks volumes. The fact that you were a Navy “brat” does not make you a military authority. Do your research. Is a commander or an overpaid clerk?

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