General Paulk was born in 1931, in Willacoochee, Ga., where he was first exposed to flying in 1942 when his father leased land to the Army Air Corps as a training field for PT-17’s. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at Robins A.F.B. in 1951. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Georgia and a master's degree in public administration from The George Washington University. He is also a graduate of the Air Command and Staff College. He received his pilot wings and commission in December 1952. General Paulk began his service as an F-86 fighter pilot in South Korea. He was next assigned to Greenville A.F.B. as an instructor pilot. General Paulk was stationed at Tachikawa Air Base, Japan, as a depot flight test maintenance officer. When he returned from Japan, he was assigned to the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson A.F.B. as a flight test, quality control and maintenance officer flying F-100s and F-105 Thunderchiefs. He then served as a senior operations adviser to the 516th Vietnamese Fighter Squadron where he flew A-1H Skyraiders. After returning from Vietnam, he served as commander of the 3552nd Pilot Training Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.He returned to Southeast Asia as commander of the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, flying F-4s. Following his tour of duty in Thailand, he was stationed in England as commander of the 48th and the 81st Tactical Fighter Wings. He was then named vice commander of the Ogden Air Logistics Center, Hill A.F.B., Utah. He also served as deputy chief of staff, logistics, for the North American Air Defense Command. General Paulk has completed a total of 346 combat missions and is a command pilot with more than 6,000 hours flying time. His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with 18 oak leaf clusters and Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters. In addition he holds the Republic of Vietnam Air Gallantry Cross. Major General John R. Paulk retired in 1982 as the commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, Robins A.F.B., Georgia. As commander he helped to establish the Museum of Aviation and supported the establishment of the Mercer Engineering and Research Center. General Paulk played a major role in influencing aerospace companies to locate facilities in middle Georgia. These companies continue to benefit from knowledge and experience of current and former service members leaving a lasting positive impact on the local economy and on national defense.
In recognition of his distinguished contributions to the field of aviation, Maj. General John R. Paulk (ret) was enshrined into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame on April 24, 2010.