Ruth Lucas was the first African-American woman to be promoted to colonel in the U.S Air Force. She joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in 1942 after graduating from Tuskegee Institute with a degree in education and sociology. Soon after, she became one of the first African-American women to attend the Joint Forces Staff College. By the time Colonel Lucas retired in 1970, she was the highest-ranking African-American woman in the Air Force.
With a Masters degree from Columbia University, Colonel Lucas was also an Education Psychologist of the Air Force. Her objective within the Air Force was to raise the education levels of her fellow Air Force comrades. During that time, Lucas appeared in a full spread with Ebony Magazine (1969) where she stated, “among all the servicemen that enter into the military annually, about 45,000 of them read below the fifth-grade level, and more than 30% of these men are black.”
From 1951 to 1954, Colonel Lucas was stationed in Tokyo, and while she worked with the Air Force, she taught Japanese schoolchildren and high school students how to speak English during her off hours. She also served as Chief of the Awards division simultaneously. In 1967, Colonel Lucas worked with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on improving test efforts in Washington DC. She also completed work with the National Urban League’s tutoring programs. A typical day for Colonel Lucas would begin with a briefing from the Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense for Education.
Colonel Ruth Lucas passed away in March of this year. She was given a ceremony with full military honors including gun salutes, an official Air Force band and soldiers on horseback at Arlington National Cemetery. Presiding over her services was Air Force chaplain, Maj. Robin Stephenson-Bratcher.