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Distinguished Alumnus Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Julius Becton Dies at Age 97

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Julius Becton, a Distinguished Alumnus from the Lower Merion High School Class of 1944, passed away on November 28, 2023, at the age of 97.

According to the Association of the United States Army, Gen. Becton first volunteered for Army service in 1944 with a desire to become a pilot. When an astigmatism knocked him out of contention for flight school, he applied and qualified for Officer Candidate School.

He became a second lieutenant in 1945 with the all-Black 93rd Infantry Division and served in the Pacific at the end of World War II. In 1946, he transferred from active duty to the Army Reserve but re-entered active service in 1948.

Over the next 35 years, Gen. Becton led soldiers in combat in Korea and Vietnam, and in Cold War operations. His key assignments included commanding the 1st Cavalry Division, the Army Operations Test and Evaluation Agency and VII Corps in Germany during the Cold War.

Gen. Becton’s final assignment before retiring from the Army in 1983 was as deputy commander of the Army Training and Doctrine Command. His awards and decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Combat Infantryman Badge with star for service in Korea and Vietnam.

In 1985, Gen. Becton became the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He also served as director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance Agency for International Development and as superintendent of the Washington, D.C., School District.

Throughout his life, Gen. Becton emphasized the value and importance of education. According to the Washington Post, his father was a janitor with a third-grade education and his mother took in laundry in order to make it to 10th grade. Gen. Becton earned his bachelor's degree from Prairie View A&M College, where he later served as president.

He earned his master's degree from the Institute for Defense Analysis at the University of Maryland and an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Huston Tillotson University.

Lower Merion High School's Becton Scholars, an affinity program for students of color, is named in his honor.

Gen. Becton will be remembered as an alumnus who truly embodied the motto, "Enter to Learn. Go Forth to Serve."