General Lloyd W. "Fig" Newton made many contributions to US aviation history, from flying F-4 Phantoms in Vietnam, to being the first African-American Thunderbird pilot, to commanding the 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 as a 2Lt 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, for F-4D Phantom II training. In April 1968, Newton reported to Da Nang AB, South Vietnam, where he served 12 months and flew 269 combat missions. After Vietnam, he continued flying the F-4 with the 523rd Tactical Fighter Squadron in Clark AB, Philippines. He returned to the US in late 1973 and excelled as an F-4 instructor pilot at Luke AFB, Arizona. In November 1974 General Newton was selected to join the USAF Aerial Demonstration Squadron, "The Thunderbirds". He was the first African-American pilot to join the team and he held several positions to include Narrator, 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 to the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, Hill AFB, Utah. General Newton received his Master of Arts degree in Public Administration from The George Washington University in 1985. After school, he thrived in various positions at Air Force headquarters in Washington, DC. In May 1989, General Newton assumed command of the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance AFB, Oklahoma. Newton then held a succession of command 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, J-3 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, Headquarters USAF, Washington, DC. In March 1997, General 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 career in the aerospace industry. 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.
The joy of flying with the United States Air Force Thunderbirds is the engagement with the people and the thrill of dynamic flight. The purpose of the Thunderbirds is to help recruit new people for the Air Force and to help demonstrate the capability of Air Force personnel and its equipment. For me, there is no better feeling than conducting an air show on a sunny 4th of July in 1976 before 1.2 million people at Jones Beach, New York. The tremendous pride of representing the Air Force and my country as we perform a ballet in the sky was an honor that I will always carry with me. The United States Air Force Thunderbirds, our "Ambassadors in Blue," continue to bring a sense of pride to the American people and many others around the world.