US Navy appoints first female four-star admiral

Adm. Michelle Howard, center, smiles as Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, left, and Wayne Cowles, Howard’s husband, put four-star shoulder boards on Howard’s service white uniform during her promotion ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Washington Tuesday July 1, 2014.
AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Chief Mass Communication Specialist Peter D. Lawlor
AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Chief Mass Communication Specialist Peter D. Lawlor

Top ranking is how some Jamaicans might rank the first female four-star admiral ever appointed in the 236-year history of the U.S. Navy.

Admiral Michelle Howard made history on July 1 when she was promoted at Arlington National Cemetery. The high ranking appointment named her the number one female admiral in the military. Howard is now the first ever vice chief of naval operations. She will also take the number two position in the U.S. navy behind Gen. Jonathan Greenert and first ever female vice chief of naval operations.

“Her accomplishment is a direct example of a navy that now, more than ever, reflects the nation it serves – a nation where success is not born of race, gender or religion but of skill and ability,” Ray Mabus, secretary of the U.S. Navy said. “She is a great example of how much we as a nation and a Navy lose if we put artificial barriers in.”

The 54-year-old African-American trailblazer was first of her race and gender to command a Navy ship. Caribbean Life reported her pioneering achievement in 2009 in this column when she stepped into the challenging lead position to command task Force 151, the rescue fleet that saved merchant marine captain Richard Phillips who was captured by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.

Ironically, that real-life, nail-biting drama was recalled in a Hollywood movie starring actor Tom Hanks. But Howard was neither mentioned nor referenced as the key player in the “Captain Phillips” biopic.

“Her historic career is taking a next step today,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said of the July 1 appointment.

“I hope I have always been compassionate, but I know the intensity has increased since I am the father of three daughters, and I refuse to believe that there are any ceilings for them, glass or otherwise.” Howard has served 32 years in the Navy. She is a 1978 graduate of gateway high School in Aurora, Colorado. In 1982 she graduated from the US naval Academy. In 1999 she became the first African-American female to command a ship by helming the USS Rushmore (LSD 47). Since commanding that amphibious dock landing ship, her career has steadily spiraled upward. Howard’s latest promotion comes almost six years after the US Army named Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, the US military’s first female four-star officer.


One hundred years after Jamaica’s Marcus Mosiah Garvey formed the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in his birth island, his legacy is being touted and on July 19, a tribute to Dr. John H. Clarke, one of his shepherds will mark the 17th annual such tributes to the US-born historian who taught the message, philosophies and hopes Garvey advocated for the African race. Garvey proposed “One God, One Aim, One Destiny” for all Africans living on the continent or dispersed throughout the world, when he organized the consciousness-raising unit in 1914.

Seven years later, he held an international convention at Madison Square Garden. More than 50,000 members reportedly attended that historic Manhattan gathering. Among them were organizations such as the Universal Black Cross Nurses, the Black Eagle Flying Corps, and members of the Universal African Legion. No other Black group has managed to unite that amount of patronage at that venue since Garvey’s massive convention. His message resonated with intellectuals and grassroots support. So too was the consistent teachings of Dr. John H. Clarke. Perhaps, this is why on July 19, the Eastern Region’s Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC) will host a two-hour tribute to one of the most revered Pan-African advocate.

Dr. Clarke became a life-long Harlem resident. He was a lecturer and full time professor at Hunter College (CUNY)). Throughout his lectures he quoted and supported the work of MM Garvey. For the 17th consecutive year, Dr. Clarke will be celebrated with reflections and accolades marking his dedicated contribution to advancing African history and culture. Slated to be held at the Countee Cullen Library, 104 West 136th St. near Lennox Ave., the tribute will begin at 2 p.m. and feature a keynote address by Dr. Gregg Kimathi Carr, Chairman of Afro-American Studies at Howard University and the first vice president of ASCAC.

Dr. Clarke died at age 83 in 1998. Born in Alabama, and raised in Georgia, he was a high school dropout who by his own effort received a Ph.D and became a scholar and intellectual. He wrote six books, edited 17, and is revered for composing more than 50 short stories. His articles and pamphlets led to the regular distribution of quarterly Black publications. He lectured throughout the country and around the world. In his travels, the only African country he eluded was South Africa. That was because of its racist apartheid practices. He was a student of Garvey’s and traveled to Jamaica to lecture there.

Garvey was born in 1887. In 1910, he left Jamaica and began traveling throughout Central America. His first stop was Costa Rica. His mother’s brother resided there. Allegedly he lived there for a time and worked as a time keeper on a banana plantation. In 1911, he also worked there as editor of a daily newspaper called “La Nacionale.” But that same year he moved on to Colon, Panama where he edited a bi-weekly newspaper before returning to Jamaica in 1912. He died in London, England at age 52.

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