COLONEL RICHARD GRAHAM
Colonel Richard Graham graduated from the University of Akron, Akron, Ohio in 1964. He was subsequently awarded master’s degrees in Sociology (1977) and Public Administration (1979) from Pepperdine University, Los Angeles, California.
Col. Graham graduated from Air Force pilot training in 1965 at Craig AFB, Selma, Alabama, and remained at Craig as a T-37 Instructor Pilot and Flight Examiner until 1970. Upon completion of F-4 “Phantom” fighter training, he flew 210 combat missions over North Vietnam and Laos in 1971-1972 and as a “Wild Weasel” pilot in 1972-1973.
He was selected to enter the SR-71 strategic reconnaissance program at Beale AFB, California in 1974. He flew the SR-71 for the next seven years, amassing 756 hours in the world’s fastest- and highest-flying jet aircraft. In 1980, he was selected to be the SR-71 squadron commander at Beale, where he served until his assignment to the Air War College at Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, Alabama.
After a tour of duty at the Pentagon during which he was promoted to full Colonel, Graham was appointed Vice Wing Commander of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale AFB in 1986. In June of 1987 he became the 9th Wing Commander, and during that time was privileged to be able to fly the SR-71, U-2, T-38 and KC-135Q concurrently for over two years. During his 25 years of Air Force service he amassed 4,600 hours of flight time, retiring in 1989. His military decorations include the Legion of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross with three Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Air Medal with 18 Oak Leaf Clusters.
Upon retirement from the Air Force, he flew for American Airlines in Dallas, Texas for 13 years, retiring in August 2002 as a Captain on the MD-80 aircraft with over 7,500 hours. He now spends his time as an author, speaker, aviation consultant, and flight instructor, and he volunteers as a representative on the Federal Aviation Administration safety team in Dallas. He and his wife, Pat, live in Plano, Texas, and they have five children and four grandchildren.
Col. Graham was the 1999 recipient of the University of Nebraska’s William F. Shea Award for his distinguished contribution to aviation, and he is currently a Distinguished Lecturer for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In 2005, the Blackbird Association awarded him the Kelly Johnson trophy, a lifetime achievement award for his work to perpetuate, foster, and improve the SR-71. In 2013 he received the Congressional Veterans Commendation Award. He serves on the Leadership Council at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas and on the International Advisory Board of Directors at the Flight of the Phoenix Aviation Museum in Gilmer, Texas.