National Institute on Aging

In Memoriam: Ruth Alice Lucas, 1920-2013

lucasRuth Lucas, an educator who was the first African American woman to be promoted to the rank of colonel in the United States Air Force, died in late March at her home in Washington, D.C. She was 92 years old.

Lucas, a graduate of Tuskegee University in Alabama, held a master’s degree from Columbia University in New York City. She enlisted in the armed forces in 1942 and joined the new U.S. Air Force in 1947.

Lucas was the first Black woman to enroll in the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. When she was promoted to colonel in 1968, Lucas worked in the office of the deputy assistant secretary of defense for education at the Pentagon. She retired from active duty in 1970.

After leaving the Air Force, Colonel Lucas was named director of urban services at the Washington Technical Institute, one of three institutions which merged to form the University of the District of Columbia. In 1994 she retired from the university after serving as assistant to the dean of the College of Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Technology.


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