Colonel (Ret.) Richard Toliver graduated from Tuskegee Institute University in January 1963 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. He learned from the Tuskegee Airmen, and proudly accepted their challenge to faithfully serve the nation as their “protégé.”
He began his Air Force career in February 1963 as a project engineer and completed pilot training in June 1965. He was one of the first five African American F-4 pilots to serve under the famed Tuskegee Airman Gen. Daniel "Chappie" James.
As a 1st Lieutenant, he deployed to Vietnam in December 1965 and completed 231 combat missions by October 1966. In 1972, as a Captain, he deployed to Thailand and flew an additional 215 combat missions for a total of 446 missions and 860 combat hours in jet fighters.
Toliver served throughout the United States, Southeast Asia, Europe, North Africa and the Persian Gulf. He commanded a number of units and held key staff positions in major commands of the Air Force. He was a command pilot with 4,000 flying hours in the F-4, F-15, F-16, OT-37, O-2, T-33, and several civilian aircraft.
His military decorations include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 27 oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor and two oak leaf clusters, Combat Readiness Ribbon with one oak leaf cluster, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, Republic of Vietnam Campaign, and Longevity and Marksman ribbons.
Toliver retired from the Air Force on March 1, 1989 after 26 years of distinguished service.