In the summer of 1926, at the age of 13, Benjamin Davis went for a flight with a barnstorming pilot at Bolling Field in Washington, D.C. This proved to be a life-changing experience. Now he was determined to become a pilot himself.
In 1929, amid the Great Depression, Davis graduated from Central High School in Cleveland, Ohio. That same year, Davis attended Western Reserve University, starting his college education.
After attending the University of France and the University of Chicago, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in July 1932. He was sponsored by Representative Oscar De Priest (R-IL) of Chicago, at the time, the only black member of Congress. During the four years of his Academy term, Davis was racially isolated by his white classmates, few of whom spoke to him outside the line of duty. He never had a roommate. He ate by himself. His classmates thought that “shunning” him, would drive him out of the Academy. The “silent treatment” had the opposite effect. It made Davis more determined to graduate. Eventually, he earned the respect of his classmates.
The courage, tenacity, and intelligence with which he conquered every obstacle he encountered and his single-minded determination to continue in his chosen career as a military officer and combat pilot, eventually gained him a great deal of sincere admiration from everyone who witnessed it.
He graduated in June 1936, 35th in a class of 276.