Thursday, November 12, 2015

Vice Admiral Manson K. Brown Awarded The President's Medal

Vice Admiral Manson K. Brown, U S Coast Guard Academy Class of 1978 never missed a chance to excel. A 1974 graduate of St. John's College High School in Washington, DC, Admiral Brown was awarded the school's highest honor, The President's Medal, on November 6, 2015.

The President's Medal is only awarded to alumni who have given extraordinary service to the school and to the world community. Admiral Brown has done that and more.

When I recruited him out of high school for the Coast Guard Academy in 1973, I did not know that he could not swim. He was a quick study. He learned fast and went on to become the Coast Guard's first African-American Admiral.

He almost became the first Black Commandant of the Coast Guard. Many of us behind the scenes were doing our best to persuade the decision makers that Vice Admiral Brown was the right man for the "Top Job" in the USCG.

Twice he was considered for COMDT, but to no avail. First, he was beat out by ADM Robert Papp; the second time, he was beat out by ADM Paul Zukunft.

ADM Brown finally retired in 2014 and the USCG lost its chance to get the Best Man. It may be 100 years before the USCG has a chance to have a Black Commandant.
(This was "The Beginning Of An Era", The Class of 1978, The Class of Manson Brown and Cleon Smith.)

The retirement of VADM Brown marked the "End of an Era". It was the end of the era of the officers of my Recruiting Progeny. He was the last officer from the cadets that I personally recruited during my tenure as Chief of the Minority Recruiting Section at Coast Guard Headquarters (G-PMR-3) circa 1972-1975. And it was the end of the line for any African American officers who would have a chance to be considered for the Top Job, that is, Commandant of the Coast Guard.

None of the Captains in the USCG today are Commandant material; they cannot perform the job. They might get promoted to Admiral, but none will be considered or promoted to Vice Admiral. It is a simple fact. I may explain my rationale in a future book on the Life of VADM Manson K. Brown.

Briefly, let me say this about that. If one is being considered for promotion to the rank of Captain or Admiral, your whole family and their history is on trial. If you have had a turbulent or unstable social life, you will have a small or no chance of being promoted. Your professional qualifications are not enough. These promotions are political in nature. Your life and family history must be politically correct.

You have the best chance of being promoted if you have been the husband of one wife, and your wife is a good social hostess with the gift of hospitality. A history of divorce or domestic instability will hurt your chances.

Any politically incorrect life style , on or off base, will hurt you. Any activities even those beyond the scope of your employment and outside the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard will hurt you. Championing unpopular or politically incorrect causes will hurt your chances. If your children have a history of juvenile offenses, that will hurt you.

The military is very conservative and ultra moral. Abnormal sexual proclivities or tendencies are best kept in the closet. Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DA/DT). A person who has never been married and has no natural children, raises eye brows, but no concrete objections. This tends to hurt men more than women.

I will admit "the Times, they are a changing"; but not as fast in the military as in society at large. The military is much like the Presidency used to be. Before John F. Kennedy, no Catholic needed to apply. Before Ronald Reagan, no divorced person needed to apply. Before William Jefferson Clinton, no "Tom Cat" needed to apply. Even Vladimir Putin did not dare to divorce his wife while his career was in the ascendancy. And J Edgar Hoover and Tolson kept their private lives very quiet and very private. Rumors circulated for years that the two bachelors had a romantic relationship.

Manson Brown was squeaky clean. He had no skeletons in his closet. Webster Smith was clean, also. He just had a lot of friends, of every persuasion.

I have studied the CG Officer Corps from about 1960 until today. I have stocked the CG Academy with some of the best and the brightest; and, none can hold a candle to Manson K. Brown. The fact that he was not considered good enough to be Commandant, says it all. We will not see another Manson Brown in the USCG for, at least, 100 years.

Ironically, there was a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy who probably could have been as good as Manson Brown, and who quite possibly could have surpassed him; and, he would have made a good Commandant. But we will never know because his career was still born. It was killed in its embryonic state. I speak of Cadet Webster Smith.

We are approaching the 10th Anniversary of the prosecution and conviction of Cadet Webster Smith. It is all together fitting and proper to look back and consider whether justice was served in that case.

Cadet Webster Smith showed more promise and potential at the cadet level than any other cadet I have ever known to become a Coast Guard Admiral, aside from Manson Brown. Webster Smith could have been another Manson Brown. Perhaps I was not the only person to see that. Could that have contributed to the decision to kill his career before it had a chance to manifest itself?

He came from a military family. Most of the male members in his family attended military prep academies. His father, Cleon Smith, was in the same Academy Class as Manson Brown, the Class of 1978. The year 1974 was a good year for Coast Guard Academy recruiting. That Class could have spawned several Black Coast Guard Admirals.

On May 14, 2014 he retired from the Coast Guard and was appointed as an Under Secretary at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Birds of a feather flock together. On a night that was billed as A Celebration of Leadership VADM was accompanied by friends and supporters.

(Judge London Steverson, USALJ (Ret.) and VADM Manson Brown, USCG (Ret.) at St John's College and High School Celebration of Leadership)

 VADM Brown was accompanied by his wife and three sons.
(VADM Brown with wife and sons at his retirement ceremony on May 14, 2014)

(Judge Steverson was accompanied by his wife, Sylvia.)

The National Anthem was sang by the St John's Choir.



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