AF unveils official portrait of 23rd Secretary of the Air Force


WASHINGTON – A portrait of former Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James was unveiled during a ceremony at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C., April 6.

Current Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson hosted the ceremony and spoke on the impact James’ tenure left on the service and her priorities.

 “First and foremost, among her priorities were taking care of people, and I think that probably showed up in a lot of things that she did while she was Secretary of the Air Force,” said Wilson. “Her second priority was readiness… and third, making every dollar count at a time when bending the cost curve was really an important part of what the Air Force had to do.” 

Artist Michele Rushworth was commissioned to create the portrait and wanted to bring to life the more than three decades of service James has given to the nation. 

“It’s an honor to play a small part in paying tribute to her more than 30-year career serving our country for work in both the public and private sectors,” said Rushworth. “Many decades from today when we are gone and there is only this painting to look at, it is my hope that people will see it and think there was a person of warmth and intelligence who lived a life of real dedication to her country.”

During the unveiling James thanked those in attendance, including her family, and she expressed how she misses her Air Force family and helping Airmen. 

“I really miss working on the really salient or important issues of the day,” said James. “Where we collaborated and we figured out an approach and a way ahead to do things better for our Airmen.”

Looking at her portrait, James reflected on what makes the Air Force a strong and successful service--its Airmen. 

“Many of you have heard me say if you can get the people part of that particular equation right, the rest is much more likely (to) come into focus,” said James. “I will say to you (I give) my deepest appreciation to all of you once more for being part of my life... I think I got the people part right.”

James led the Air Force as the 23rd SecAF for more than three years after being confirmed in December 2013.

Former Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Artist Michele Rushworth pose for a photo during a portrait unveiling ceremony at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C., April 6. The portrait will be displayed at the Pentagon. 

Photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank