Before they were placed into board service to protect assets of shareholders at some of the largest publicly traded corporations on the S&P 500, a phalanx of BLACK ENTERPRISE Registry of Corporate Directors members chose military service to secure our nation. After their tours of duty, many of these black veterans applied their leadership and strategic skills to advance in corporate America while some decided to build distinguished careers in the Armed Forces. All, however, were drafted to serve on corporate boards because they consistently exhibited the right stuff when it came to management, decisiveness, and sound judgment.
As you would expect, most of these board members are involved in technology and aerospace and defense—sectors in which equipment and processes, in some cases, have been perfected for military and government use before being modified for consumers. Corporations in other industries have clearly benefitted from leaders who spent years developing detailed plans to ensure successful outcomes and at times have done so with literally lives on the line.
In honor of Veterans Day, we salute Registry members who have proudly represented America in this capacity. Using bio information, we share their military journey. You will be fascinated by this cadre of tops guns, military geniuses, and inspirational heroes—all bound by patriotism, sacrifice, and honor.
Gen. Colin Powell
The most prominent among them: Gen. Colin Powell, who rose to become the nation’s first African American Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff—the pinnacle position in the Armed Forces—as well as the first African American to head the diplomatic corps as Secretary of State. The retired four-star Army general “found his calling” while attending the City College of New York, where he studied geology and joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). Serving as the commander of his unit, he has often been quoted saying that the opportunity helped provide him with structure and direction. After graduating in 1958, Powell was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. In the 1960s, he served two tours of duty in Vietnam and has been awarded as many 11 military decorations in all.
After receiving an M.B.A. at George Washington University and gaining a White House fellowship in 1972, he would serve four presidents, holding positions in the Defense Department and at the Pentagon, involved in the coordination of military campaigns over the course of three decades that included the bombing of Libya and both Iraq Wars.
Powell currently serves on the board of Salesforce.com.
Admiral Michelle Howard
Michelle Howard was promoted from vice admiral to admiral in 2014, making her the first female four-star admiral and first African American to hold this position.
In addition, Howard was the first African American woman to serve as a three-star officer in the U.S. military and command a U.S. Navy ship. She was also the first female graduate of the Naval Academy to be promoted to flag officer. Her stellar accomplishments earned her a number of honors, including the NAACP Chairman’s Image Award, the French Legion of Honor, and the KPMG Inspire Greatness Award.
Howard was elected to the IBM board of directors in March 2019.
Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III
Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III is a retired U.S. Army General with nearly 41 years of military service and extensive operational experience, having commanded troops in combat at the 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-star levels. As the Commander of U.S. Central Command from March 2013 through March 2016, he was responsible for the 20-country Central Region that includes Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. He was also the Combined Forces Commander in Iraq and Syria.
Austin is the Class of 1951 Leadership Chair for the Study of Leadership in the Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York for the academic years 2016-17 and 2017-18. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy with master’s degrees from Auburn University in Education and Webster University in Business Management, he holds numerous awards and decorations, including five Defense Distinguished Service Medals, the Silver Star, and the Legion of Merit.
Austin is a corporate director on the board of Nucor Corporation.
Frank M. Clark Jr.
Frank M. Clark Jr. has been president of the Chicago Board of Education since 2015 and served as chairman and CEO of Commonwealth Edison Co. (also known as ComEd), an affiliate of Exelon Corp., from 2005 to 2012. He has held various positions at the company, ranging from governmental and community affairs to distribution services and marketing. As such, he has cemented his reputation as one of the most versatile leaders in the energy sector.
The only time he did not work for the company during his 45-year career was when he was drafted in 1967, shortly after being hired for a mailroom position. He served two years in the U.S. Army, including a year in Vietnam. Once his tour was over, Clark returned to work at ComEd and at the same time, went back to school to earn bachelor and law degrees from DePaul University.
Clark serves on the boards of Waste Management Inc. and Aetna Inc.
Major Gen. Augustus Leon Collins
From his bio on Huntington Ingalls Industries’ site: “Collins served in the U.S. Army and Mississippi National Guard for more than 35 years and held numerous command and staff positions, including command of the Mississippi National Guard’s 155th Brigade Combat Team, which deployed to Iraq and was responsible for security operations in the southern and western provinces.
Collins was promoted to brigadier general in 2005 and is the first African-American to attain the rank of general in the history of the Mississippi National Guard. He retired in 2016 after serving five years as the adjutant general of both the Mississippi Army National Guard and the Mississippi Air National Guard.”
Collins serves on the board of Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.
Major Gen. Elder Granger
Major Gen. Elder Granger is currently president and CEO of The 5Ps L.L.C., a Centennial, Colorado, healthcare, education, and leadership consulting organization. Prior to his retirement from the US Army in 2009, Granger served as the deputy director and program executive officer of the TRICARE Management Activity, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs), for close to a half-decade. In that role, he was a principal adviser to the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) on the department’s health plan policy and performance and oversaw the acquisition, operation, and integration of its managed care program within the Military Health System. Engaged in planning, budgeting, and execution of the $22.5 billion Defense Health Program, Granger managed a staff of 1,800 to ensure high-quality, accessible healthcare for 9.2 million uniformed service members, their families, retirees, and other stakeholders worldwide.
Prior to TRICARE, Granger led the largest U.S. and multinational battlefield health system while serving as Commander, Task Force 44th Medical Command and Command Surgeon for the Multinational Corps Iraq.
A graduate of Arkansas State University in 1976 and the University of Arkansas School of Medicine in 1980, Granger began his military career commissioned through ROTC. Over 40 years, the military physician, board-certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and the Board of Hematology and Oncology, rose through the ranks, gaining a series of surgical assignments and leadership roles. Among his numerous awards, decorations, and honors: The Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with three oak leaf clusters, the Bronze Star Medal, and the Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters.
Granger currently serves on the board of DLH Holdings Co. He also sat on the board of Express Scripts Holding Co. from May 2015 until the company merged with Cigna in December 2018.
Anthony W. Hall Jr.
Anthony W. Hall Jr. has been known as the “people’s lawyer” in the H for decades. As City Attorney during Houston Mayor Lee Brown’s administration. from 1998 to 2004, and then played the role of chief administrative officer for the next mayor from 2004 to 2010. Since then, Hall, who has an economics degree from Howard University and a law degree from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, handles cases through his private practice.
Before discovering law and government, he served in the U.S. Army from 1967-1971, attaining the rank of captain. Hall’s military service included tours in Berlin and Vietnam in which he was awarded the Purple Heart and three Bronze Stars.
Hall serves on the board of Kinder Morgan Inc.
Gen. Lester L. Lyles
Besides having a mechanical engineering degree from Howard University and master’s in mechanical/nuclear engineering from when he attended school in the 1960s, Gen. Lester L. Lyles studied at Defense Systems Management College, the Armed Forces Staff College, the National War College, and the National and International Security Management Course at Harvard University during the 1980s and 1990s.
Lyles, who entered the U.S. Air Force in 1968 as a distinguished graduate of the Air Force ROTC program, also gained an array of key assignments, including Special Assistant and Aide-De-Camp to the Commander of Air Force Systems Command; Avionics Division Chief in the F-16 Systems Program Office; and Program Director of the Medium-Launch Vehicles Program and Space-Launch Systems offices in 1997 during the recovery from the Challenger Space Shuttle accident.
The aforementioned experiences—just a few of the highlights on his extensive résumé—and training prepared Lyles for his biggest role: Commander, Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio in 2000. The command conducts research, development, test and evaluation, acquisition management services and logistics support for the Air Force. In 2012, the retired Lyles was bestowed the General Thomas D. White Award for distinguished service in national security, from the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Lyles is a corporate director on the board of General Dynamics.
Leo S. Mackay Jr.
Leo S. Mackay, Jr. is senior vice president, Internal Audit, Ethics and Sustainability, and an elected corporate officer of Lockheed Martin Corp.
A 1983 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he completed pilot training two years later and graduated at the top of his class. Selected to fly the F-14, he served as a member of Fighter Squadron 11 for three years, conducting operational deployments to the North Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Indian Oceans. He finished Naval Fighter Weapons School—known as “Top Gun”—and compiled 235 carrier landings and 1,000 hours in the F-14. In the 1988 operation, the highly decorated naval aviator was among the U.S. forces sent to protect civilian oil tankers targeted in the Iran/Iraq War.
On the ground, his various assignments and promotions eventually led him to his role as Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs from 2001-2003, receiving the Exceptional Service Medal, the VA’s highest honor, for his service. As he made his ascent, Mackay earned a master’s degree, and a Ph.D., in public policy from Harvard University. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Aspen Strategy Group.
Mackay serves on the board of Cognizant Tech Solutions Corp.
Gen. Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton
Gen. Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton is the retired commander of Air Education and Training Command, headquartered at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas. As such, he is responsible for the recruiting, training, and education of Air Force personnel. Newton manages a massive operation: Air Education and Training Command consists of 13 bases, more than 43,000 active duty members and 14,000 civilians.
But as a young man, he made wartime history. Earning a degree in aviation education from Tennessee State University, he was commissioned as a distinguished graduate through ROTC in 1966. After completing pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona a year later and qualifying as a fighter pilot, he flew 269 combat missions from Da Nang Air Base in South Vietnam, including 79 missions over North Vietnam, the dangerous stronghold of the Viet Cong. Due to his prowess, Newton became the first African American selected to join the elite U.S. Air Force Aerial Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, in November 1974.
Upon retirement, he entered the corporate world and moved up the ranks to EVP, Military Engines at Pratt & Whitney, the global leader in designing, manufacturing, and servicing of aircraft engines, space propulsion systems, and industrial gas turbines.
Newton currently serves as a corporate director on the boards of L3 Technologies Inc. and Torchmark Corp.
Charles E. Phillips Jr.
As CEO of Infor Global Solutions, Charles E. Phillips Jr. has built the company into an enterprise software giant. Prior to Infor, he was president and board member of Oracle Corp. and during his seven-and-a-half-year tenure, it tripled in size and successfully acquired 70 companies. Before that experience, Phillips was a managing director in the Technology Group at Morgan Stanley, where he was recognized as one of BLACK ENTERPRISE‘s Most Powerful Blacks on Wall Street and an Institutional Investor All-Star for 10 consecutive years. Highly respected in business and economic circles, Phillips also served on the Obama administration’s Economic Recovery Board, led by Paul Volcker.
Holding a degree in computer science from the U.S. Air Force Academy, a JD from New York Law School, and an M.B.A. from Hampton University, Phillips spent some of his formative career years as part of the military. He was a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps in the 2nd Battalion, 10th Marines artillery unit before his career ascent on Wall Street and Silicon Valley. In fact, in 2012 he was invited as the keynote speaker for the Marine Corps’ 237th Birthday Ball where he addressed his unit in which he served while stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Phillips serves on the board of ViacomCBS Inc.
Gen. Larry Spencer
As the Air Force Association’s leading executive, Gen. Larry Spencer manages the group’s staff. He has oversight of the operations of AFA, AFA Veteran Benefits Association, and Air Force Memorial Foundation. He also holds the title of publisher of Air Force Magazine, the official journal for the association’s 94,000 members.
Spencer began his military career in the enlisted ranks and rose to become a four-star general. Receiving his degree in industrial engineering technology from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Spencer was then commissioned through Officer Training School in 1980 as a distinguished graduate. He has commanded a squadron, group, and wing, and served as Vice Commander of the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center. He made military history as the first Air Force officer to serve as the Assistant Chief of Staff in the White House Military Office.
Retiring as a four-star general, Spencer spent over 40 years in the Air Force. His last assignment was as the Vice Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, reaching the second highest-rank in that branch of the armed forces. He presided over the Air Staff and served as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Requirements Oversight Council and Deputy Advisory Working Group. In that role, he assisted the Air Force’s Chief of Staff with organizing, training, and equipping of 690,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve, and civilian forces home and abroad.
Spencer serves as a corporate director for Whirlpool Corp.
Melvin T. Stith, Ph.D.
An alumnus of Norfolk State University and a member of its Board of Visitors for the past four years, Melvin T. Stith, Ph.D. will assume the role of interim president of his alma mater beginning Jan. 1, 2018. He is also Dean Emeritus, Martin J. Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University and Dean Emeritus, College of Business, Florida State University, respectively. Before climbing the academic ranks as a professional, the Vietnam veteran served in the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Command from 1968 to 1972, achieving the rank of captain.
A native of Jarratt, Virginia, he received his sociology degree from NSU in 1968 and his M.B.A. and Ph.D. in marketing from the Whitman School in 1973 and 1978, respectively.
Stith serves on the board of AFLAC Inc.
Hansel E. Tookes II
Retired, Hansel E. Tookes II had served in various senior executive positions with tech, aerospace and defense conglomerate Raytheon. Joining the company at the turn of the century, he rose quickly, serving as chairman and CEO of Raytheon Aircraft Co. as well as Raytheon International. Before joining the company, he played vital leadership roles at industrial companies United Technologies and Pratt & Whitney.
Before becoming a top gun in corporate America, Tookes was a Lieutenant Commander and Military Pilot in the U.S. Navy for seven years and later served as a Commercial Pilot with United Airlines. Moreover, he holds a degree in physics from Florida State University and a master’s in aeronautical systems from the University of West Florida. He also completed the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He served as a member of the Advisory Group to the Secretary of the Air Force and continues his membership of the National Academies – Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board. No longer in military service, Tookes still continues to serve his country.
Tookes is on the boards of NextEra Energy Inc., Corning Inc., Harris Corp., and Ryder System Inc.
— Additional reporting by Tiamari Whitted and Selena Hill
Editors’ Note: This story has been updated since it was originally published on November 11, 2018.