Lloyd W. "Fig" Newton made several contributions to US aviation history, from flying F-4 Phantoms in Vietnam, to becoming the first black Thunderbird pilot to being the commander of Air Education and Training Command. A native of Ridgeland, South Carolina, he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Aviation Education at Tennessee State University, and was commissioned in 1966 through the Reserve Officer Training Corps program as a distinguished graduate. After pilot training at Williams AFB, Arizona, he proceeded to George AFB, California, where he trained for combat in the F-4D Phantom II. In April 1968, Newton reported to Da Nang AB, South Vietnam, where he served 12 months and flew 269 combat missions, including 79 missions over North Vietnam.
After Vietnam, he continued flying the F-4 with the 523rd Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 405th Tactical Fighter Wing, Clark AB, Philippines. He returned to the US in 1974, serving as an F-4 instructor pilot at Luke AFB, Arizona. He was selected to join the Thunderbirds in November 1974 and held a number of positions, including slot pilot and right wingman. In December 1978, Newton became a congressional liaison officer with the US House of Representatives. In February 1982, he transitioned to the F-16 Fighting Falcon and was assigned as assistant deputy commander for operations (ADO) of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Kunsan AB, South Korea.
The following year, he was assigned as ADO of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, Hill AFB, Utah. Newton received his Master of Arts degree in Public Administration from The George Washington University in 1985. After school, he served in various positions at Air Force headquarters in Washington, DC. In May 1989, Newton assumed command of the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance AFB, Oklahoma. Newton then held a succession of positions, to include serving as commander of the 12th Flying Training Wing at Randolph AFB, Texas, and commander of the 833rd Air Division and 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. In July 1993, he became the director of operations for US Special Operations Command at MacDill AFB, Florida, and in June 1995 he was assigned as the Air Force assistant vice chief of staff.
In March 1997, Newton took command of Headquarters Air Education and Training Command, Randolph AFB, Texas. In August 2000, he retired from military service as a four-star general, and went on to have a highly successful civilian career. Newton is a command pilot with more than 4,000 flying hours. His military awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, two Distinguished Service Medals, two Legions of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Meritorious Service Medals, 17 Air Medals, Philippines Presidential Unit Citation, Vietnam Service Medal and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
It was a hot, humid summer day as then-First Lieutenant Newton strapped on his F-4D Phantom II for another "routine" mission over North Vietnam. After reading the monthly rules of engagement update and signing off on the "right" way to fight the conflict, he thought, "It's a war! It's hard for rules and paper to argue with enemy defenses and the hair standing up on the back of your neck. So let's go downtown and take the fight to the enemy."