Brigadier General Graham Edward Shirley, USAF Retired, passed away on Sunday, November 14, 2021, at his home in San Antonio, Texas.
General Shirley was born on January 4, 1943, in Starkville, Mississippi. He grew up on a farm in West Point, MS, and graduated from West Point High School in 1961. After graduation, he enlisted in the United States Air Force and enrolled in the Air Force Academy Preparatory School in 1962, graduating in 1963. He was the first USAFA Prep School grade to be promoted to general officer. He was a Distinguished Graduate in the USAF Academy Class of 1966, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in both Engineering Management and International Affairs and the first '66 grad to make general. In 1973, he earned a Master of Arts in International Relations from the University of Southern California. He was a distinguished graduate of the Air War College, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Seminar XXI. From 1972 onward, he was also a member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London.
General Shirley attended pilot training at Craig Air Force Base in Selma, AL, in 1967. His first assignment was flying KC-135s at Columbus Air Force Base, MS. In 1969, he volunteered for combat duty, flying the RF-4C with the 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in South Vietnam. In June 1970, he transferred to the 14th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand, where he continued to fly combat missions as an Instructor Pilot and Squadron Executive Officer.
In 1971, General Shirley joined the l0th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, RAF Alconbury, England. He transferred to Headquarters 3rd Air Force, RAF Mildenhall, where he served as aide-de-camp to the commander. He was assigned to the Pentagon in 1973 as Assistant Executive Officer to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations. In 1974, General Shirley was assigned to the 43rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Elmendorf AFB, AK, as an F-4E Instructor Pilot and Assistant Operations Officer.
From 1976-79, General Shirley served tours at Headquarters 8th Air Force, Barksdale AFB, LA, as Operations Officer of the 393rd Bombardment Squadron, at Pease AFB, NH, flying FB-111s, and as Commander of the 84th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Castle AFB, CA, flying the F-106.
In 1980, General Shirley was assigned once again to the Pentagon, where he served as Chief of the Middle East-Africa Division, Assistant Deputy Director for Regional Plans and Policy, and Deputy Assistant Director for Joint and National Security Council matters. He attended the Air War College in residence. Upon graduation he was selected to command the 86 Tactical Fighter Group at Ramstein AFB, Germany flying the F-4E.
In 1986 General Shirley was assigned to the 20 Tactical Fighter Wing at RAF Upper Heyford, England as the Vice Wing Commander, flying the F-111E. He was the acting Commander when Operation El Dorado Canyon was executed against targets in Libya. Shortly afterward he assumed full Command of the 20th Wing and served with great distinction. Under his leadership, the 20 TFW swept every major operational award, including the AF Outstanding ribbon.
He returned to the Air Staff in July 1988 as Deputy Director for Regional Plans and Policy. In June 1990 he returned to Texas as Vice Commander of Air Force Intelligence Command, at Kelly Air Force Base, where he served until his retirement in 1992, after 31 years of distinguished service.
General Shirley was a Command Pilot with 3,000+ flying hours, including more than two hundred combat missions during two tours of duty in Southeast Asia. He has been combat-ready in the following aircraft: KC-135, RF-4C, FB-111A, F-106A/B, F-4D/E, and F-111E. He also flew the T-41, T-37, and T-38. His military awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 11 oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with "V" device and 11 oak leaf clusters, Combat Readiness Medal with oak leaf cluster, Vietnam Service Medal with seven service stars, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal and Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation.
After retirement, Graham Shirley went on to a distinguished career in the private sector. He founded and was CEO of The Pegasus Group, an international trade and consulting firm, and served as the CEO of Westland Helicopter. General Shirley also spent more than a decade as a senior member of the public services teams at KPMG LLP, KPMG Consulting, Rapidigm, and BearingPoint. He served on the Board of the Confiance Group and was senior board member of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA).
General Shirley was a Trustee of the Falcon Foundation at the United States Air Force Academy. He was the driving force behind the creation of the Air Force Academy Athletic Corporation (AFAAC), which supports the Air Force Athletic Department mission and generates revenue to support Air Force Intercollegiate Athletics.
Graham E. Shirley is preceded in death by his father, Herman M. Shirley, Sr, his mother Helen Lang Shirley, and his brother Dr. Douglas P. Shirley.
He is survived by his wife of more than 25 years, Deborah Long-Shirley, his daughters Jennifer Kathryn Shirley and Caryn Shirley Daun (Kyle).
He is also survived by his brothers Herman M. Shirley, Jr. (Roxalynn) and Carl G. Shirley and nephews Douglas "Carey" Shirley (Aki), Joseph P. Shirley, James H. Shirley and his daughter Danilynn, and Paul M. Shirley and his son T.J.
He is also survived by stepson Tyler Trice (Lissa), grandsons Carson, Patrick, and Owen. The grandchildren love their "GMan".
In lieu of flowers, the family would be most honored by memorial donations made in Graham Edward Shirley's name to:
French Camp Academy
One Fine Place
French Camp, Mississippi 39745
Military-Civilian Charitable Foundation
P.O Box 6495
San Antonio, TX 78209
Kendalleise Rescue Ranch
354 Big Sur
Blanco, TX 78606
San Antonio Cancer Council
c/o Mays Cancer Center
7979 Wurzbach Rd, Suite U600
San Antonio, TX 78229
Published by Porter Loring Mortuary North on Nov. 26, 2021.