Defense Dept.’s longest-serving general and African American retires
When Al Flowers was born, his grandmother brought him home in a shoe box and sat all night by the wood stove to keep him warm.
When he was 10, he went to the tobacco fields with the adults, “cropping” leaves by hand and dumping them in a cart drawn by two gray mules.
He lived in a tin roof house with no running water and bathed in a No. 10 washtub.
Coming of age, he thought: There must be something more.
This month, Maj. Gen. Alfred K. Flowers, 63, retires from the U.S. Air Force as the military’s longest-serving active-duty general.
He is also the longest-tenured active-duty service member in the Air Force, and the longest-serving active-duty African American in the six-decade history of the Defense Department.
For 46 years, from his days as an Air Force warehouseman, to Vietnam, where he helped gather the bodies of the dead, to his current job at the Pentagon, where he is the Air Force budget director, he has wanted for nothing else.
“Best decision that I’ve ever made,” he said of signing up at age 17.
It was good for the service, too.
“Al has been an incredible resource,” said Michael B. Donley, secretary of the Air Force, who has known Flowers for 20 years. “He’s seen lots of budgets going up and down over the years. … We know we can go to Al to get a straight answer. … He’s a total pro.”