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LOLO, Mont. One of the first African-American graduates of the Air Force Academy, who went on to serve in Vietnam and later as an executive at several companies, died Monday, the academy said.
Charles Vernon Bush, from the class of 1963, died at his home in Lolo, Mont., the academy said. The 72-year-old had suffered from colon cancer, his wife said. The couple had been married 48 years.
The academy called Bush its first African-American graduate. He entered the academy with two black classmates in June 1959.
Bush received a master's degree in international relations from Georgetown University in 1964 before attending air intelligence officers school and serving at Westover Air Force Base, Mass., where he taught undergraduate political science courses at American International College.
Bush, who spoke Russian and Vietnamese, was assigned to Vietnam in 1967 as an intelligence officer. He was responsible for the deployment of six intelligence teams involved with significant intelligence operations, particularly involving the attack on Tan Son Nhut Air Base during the Tet Offensive of 1968 and the defense of the Marines and South Vietnamese at the Battle of Khe Sanh, the academy said.
After returning to the U.S. in 1968, he was assigned to Headquarters Air Force Special Projects Production Facility at Westover as chief of the technical analysis division.
After resigning his commission, he graduated from Harvard Business School and was an executive at companies including Hughes Electronics Corp. and Max Factor & Co.
Bush was an Academy Falcon Foundation trustee and was a diversity consultant for the Air Force and Air Force Academy. His many awards included the Bronze Star while he was in the Air Force.
Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, superintendent of the Air Force Academy, said the school was saddened to learn of Bush's death.
"Mr. Bush's courage and commitment to enhancing diversity in the United States military will pay itself forward for many generations," Gould said in a written statement. "The academy family is truly proud to call Mr. Chuck Bush one of our own."