Hero of the Week: RADM Evelyn Fields, First African American and First Woman Admiral in NOAA Corps

Image: Screengrab Accuweather

This week, in honor of Black History Month, are shining a spotlight on a trailblazing leader of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s uniformed service corps (the NOAA Corps) where she rose to the rank of Rear Admiral.  Admiral Fields was the first African-American woman to command a ship in the U.S. uniformed services (which includes the Navy and the Coast Guard) for an extended assignment when she took command of the NOAA research vessel McArthur in 1989.  Admiral Fields surveyed the depths of the ocean working a variety of leadership roles on NOAA’s ocean mapping ships and eventually rose to lead the entire NOAA Corps. In 1999, then-President Bill Clinton appointed her director of the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations where she was responsible for the management of NOAA’s fleet of research ships and aircraft and oversaw more than 1,100 employees.

During her career, Fields received many honors and awards throughout her career, including her 1996 award as one of the top 50 minority women in science and engineering from the National Technical Association, and, in 2000, her Gold Medal for leadership — the highest honor from the Department of Commerce.  Last year, Accuweather interviewed her for their podcast series – you can listen to the interview by clicking on it below.  Reflecting back on her remarkable career, she told Accuweather that the “Science organizations in the 1960s and ’70s — and the timeframe is a key part — did not have a big female population.  I can’t tell you how many meetings I was the only female there. That’s just how it was. But that was getting better by the time I left.”  For all her amazing firsts, and we salute Admiral Fields this week.

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