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Immediate Release

Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on the Passing of Lieutenant General Julius W. Becton Jr.

I am deeply saddened by the passing of Lieutenant General Julius W. Becton Jr. He was a barrier-breaking leader, a model soldier, and a devoted public servant whose integrity and professionalism inspired countless Americans. He was the first Black commander of a U.S. Army corps, and he later served as the first Black director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration. He was also a mentor and a dear friend.

Lieutenant General Becton was deeply committed to the institutions that he loved and led, especially the U.S. Army. He decided at a young age that the U.S. Army was his ticket out of poverty—even in a time when our armed forces were still segregated—and he rose through the Army's ranks and fought for his country in three wars.

After retiring from the U.S. Army, he spearheaded an overhaul of FEMA. That was just a part of his lifelong mission to make our institutions more purposeful, more reliable, and more responsive to the people whom they served.

As the son of a domestic worker and a janitor with a third-grade education, Lieutenant General Becton believed passionately in the power of learning. That commitment drove his leadership both as superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools and as president of Prairie View A&M University—his alma mater—which he helped lead out of a period of decline.

I count myself among a generation of U.S. Army officers and enlisted men and women who owe our careers to Lieutenant General Becton's guidance and example. "Leadership and ethics are inseparable," he said, and I have carried his lessons with me throughout my career.

On behalf of the Department of Defense, I send my deepest condolences to the family of Lieutenant General Julius W. Becton.