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Radm. Stephen Rochon

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Stephen W. Rochon was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and enlisted in the U. S. Coast Guard in 1970. He received a commission as an ensign in 1975 from the Officer Candidate School at Yorktown, Virginia. He then was assigned to Marine Safety Office (MSO) in California as assistant port operations and intelligence officer. In 1979, he served in the Coast Guard Reserve while attending Xavier University of Louisiana and graduated from there with his B.S. degree in business administration. Rochon then graduated from the National Defense University’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF) in 1999 with his M.S. degree in national resource strategy. In 2002, he also completed the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government Senior Executive Program for National and International Security, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Management.

In 1984, Rochon returned to active duty and served as Chief of the Reserve Training Branch of the Ninth Coast Guard District in Cleveland, Ohio. In this capacity, Rochon organized the Coast Guard’s first combat skills course with the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia and served on temporary duty in the Middle East to train the Royal Jordanian Coast Guard. Rochon served as the Coast Guard's director of personnel management in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita in 2005 where he provided support for Coast Guard personnel and their families. In 2006, Rochon became the Commander of Maintenance and Logistics Command at the U.S. Coast Guard’s Atlantic Headquarters; and, in, 2007, he was named Director of the Executive Residence and Chief Usher at the White House for former President George W. Bush. The first African American to hold the position, Rochon ran the executive mansion for four years for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, executing all major events at the White House and preserving the nation’s most historic home.

His military awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, three Legion of Merit Medals, two Meritorious Service Medals, two Coast Guard Commendation Medals, two Department of Transportation 9/11 Medals, two Coast Guard Achievement Medals, two Commandant’s Letter of Commendation Ribbons, among twenty service and unit awards. His civilian awards include the 1989 Coast Guard Equal Opportunity Achievement Award, the 1990 United Negro College Fund Leadership Award, the 1997 Port of Baltimore Vital Link Award, the 1998 Vice President Gore Hammer Award, the 1998 NAACP Roy P. Wilkins Renowned Service Award, the 2001 World Trade Center New Orleans C. Alvin Bertel Award, the 2002 Greater New Orleans Barge Fleeting Association Maritime Person of the Year, the 2007 Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the 2009 Spirit of Hope Award.

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Stephen W. Rochon was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 8, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.184

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/8/2013

Last Name

Rochon

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Wayne

Occupation
Schools

Blessed Sacrament School

St. Katharine Drexel Preparatory Academy

Xavier University of Louisiana

National Defense University (ICAF)

University of Maryland

Northeastern High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Stephen

Birth City, State, Country

New Orleans

HM ID

ROC02

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bahamas, Jamaica

Favorite Quote

Find The Good And Praise It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

3/7/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Shrimp Po' Boy

Short Description

Rear admiral Radm. Stephen Rochon (1950 - ) served as director of personnel management in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita in 2005, and went on to become the first African American director of the Executive Residence and usher at the White House where he served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Employment

Delete

Unites States Customs and Border Protection

White House

United States Coast Guard

United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Office

United States Coast Guard Ninth District

United States Department of Transportation

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Stephen Rochon's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Stephen Rochon lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Stephen Rochon describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Stephen Rochon describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Stephen Rochon talks about his maternal grandfather and his job as a Pullman porter

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Stephen Rochon talks about his mother's growing up in Baltimore, Maryland and New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Stephen Rochon describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Stephen Rochon talks about how his parents met, his father's success as a pharmacist, his parents' divorce and his relationship with his father

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Stephen Rochon talks about his siblings, his similarities to his mother and his maternal grandfather, and his step-father's name

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Stephen Rochon describes his earliest childhood memories of taking trips with his mother and brothers in his mother's car

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Stephen Rochon discusses racism and segregation in the South, and contrasts this with his trip to Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Stephen Rochon talks about the schools that he attended in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Stephen Rochon talks about his elementary school in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Stephen Rochon describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Stephen Rochon describes Mardi Gras in New Orleans while he was growing up, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Stephen Rochon describes Mardi Gras in New Orleans while he was growing up, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Stephen Rochon talks about the practice of throwing coconuts in the Mardi Gras parade

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Stephen Rochon talks about his interest in chemistry in grade school

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Stephen Rochon talks about his high school in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Stephen Rochon talks about his interest in music and his family's musical inclinations

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Stephen Rochon talks about running for student body president and playing sports in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Stephen Rochon talks about his interest in music, Xavier University's pharmacy department and joining the U.S. Coast Guard

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Stephen Rochon recalls Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Stephen Rochon describes his experience at Xavier University, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Stephen Rochon describes his experience at Xavier University, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Stephen Rochon discusses his decision to join the U.S. Coast Guard

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Stephen Rochon talks about joining the U.S. Coast Guard in 1970

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Stephen Rochon talks about his early experience in the U.S. Coast Guard and his promotion after three years

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Stephen Rochon talks about his early promotion, working in the U.S. Coast Guard recruiting office and his decision to stay in the service

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Stephen Rochon talks about the end of his first marriage, his parents' support, and raising his son

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Stephen Rochon talks about raising his son in California, resigning from active Coast Guard duty, and his father's business going bankrupt

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Stephen Rochon talks about working in real estate, returning to Xavier University and going back into active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1984

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Stephen Rochon talks about his tour as Chief of the Reserve Training Branch of the U.S. Coast Guard's 9th District in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Stephen Rochon talks about his tour as Chief of the Port Security Branch at the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Stephen Rochon talks about his tours as Chief of Officer Recruiting and Chief of the Officer Programs Branch, and his promotion to lieutenant commander

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Stephen Rochon talks about the Haitian migrant crisis of the early 1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Stephen Rochon talks about his first day at the U.S Coast Guard headquarters and Alex Haley's significance in the Coast Guard

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Stephen Rochon discusses the absence of an African Americans in the U.S. Coast Guard when he joined in the 1970s

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Stephen Rochon discusses his interest in black history in the U.S. Coast Guard, his mentor, Alex Haley, and dating and marrying his second wife

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Stephen Rochon talks about his service as deputy commander of MIO/Activities in Baltimore and attending the National Defense University

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Stephen Rochon describes his experience as the commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in New Orleans, and becoming a rear admiral

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Stephen Rochon talks about becoming the second African American rear admiral in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard, after Erroll Brown

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Stephen Rochon describes his service and experience in the U.S. Department of Transportation

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Stephen Rochon recalls the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Stephen Rochon talks about the Department of Transportation and becoming the acting director of the Office of Intelligence and Security

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Stephen Rochon describes his experience as the acting assistant commandant for Intelligence in the U.S. Coast Guard

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Stephen Rochon reflects upon the communication between U.S. Intelligence agencies

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Stephen Rochon discusses his assignment as the director of Personnel Management, his command in Norfolk, Virginia, and Hurricane Katrina

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Stephen Rochon talks about being recruited as the Chief Usher of The White House, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Stephen Rochon talks about being recruited as the Chief Usher of The White House, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Stephen Rochon describes the history of the role of the Chief Usher of The White House

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Stephen Rochon talks about demographics of the White House staff members, and their longevity of service, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Stephen Rochon talks about demographics of the White House staff members, and their longevity of service, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Stephen Rochon describes his responsibilities as the Chief Usher of the White House

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Stephen Rochon describes how the White House transitions between presidents, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Stephen Rochon describes how the White House transitions between presidents, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Stephen Rochon describes his experience in the White House with the Obama family, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Stephen Rochon describes his experience in the White House with the Obama family, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Stephen Rochon talks about picking a swing set for President Barack Obama's daughters and the basketball court in the White House

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Stephen Rochon talks about working in collaboration with the Secret Service at the White House

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Stephen Rochon describes his experience at the White House State dinner for the Queen of England in 2007

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Stephen Rochon describes his experience during Pope Benedict's visit to the White House

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Stephen Rochon talks about the differences between the Bushes' and the Obamas' stay in the White House

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Stephen Rochon talks about his family's reaction and support of his service as the chief usher of the White House

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Stephen Rochon talks about his decision to retire as the chief usher of the White House

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Stephen Rochon talks about the subject matter for his book, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Stephen Rochon talks about the subject matter for his book, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Stephen Rochon talks about the film, 'Lee Daniels' The Butler', pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Stephen Rochon talks about the film, 'Lee Daniels' The Butler', pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Stephen Rochon reflects upon his life

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Stephen Rochon reflects upon opportunities in the U.S. Coast Guard

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Stephen Rochon talks about The Rochon Group, LLC

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Stephen Rochon describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Stephen Rochon reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Stephen Rochon talks about his family

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Stephen Rochon talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Stephen Rochon describes his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Stephen Rochon describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$6

DAStory

1$7

DATitle
Stephen Rochon talks about joining the U.S. Coast Guard in 1970
Stephen Rochon describes the history of the role of the Chief Usher of The White House
Transcript
Okay, so [U.S.] Coast Guard, you met a brother in bell bottoms (laughter)?$$Yeah, yeah, 6'2" [height]. I'll never forget him, SK-1, Henry Dillsworth, D-I-L-L-S-W-O-R-T-H. And he was the first one when I walked in that office. And I said, God, that's an impressive man, tall guy in these bell bottoms, and got this flack tie, kerchief around his neck and white piping, you know, coming down here, and I said, man, that looks pretty sharp. And so we started talking, and I said, my cousin told me I should check this out, you know. And he said, Ah, Rochon, you know, it's a good outfit. And I says, well, tell me what those stripes mean on your arm. He had an arm full of stripes we call hash marks, and each stripe means four years of service. But the rank was up here, and I said, what is that? He said, I'm a second-class petty officer. And I said, oh, okay, that sounds impressive. I says, what's the next step from there. He says, you become a first class. So I said, well, how long does it take to become a first class? And he says, well, you won't have to worry about that Rochon because you have you--you have to wait till your second term, your second hitch. He said, I've been in, you know, a good fifteen years, and I'm second class. So I says, well, how quickly can you make first class? And he says, well, there're some people that make it in under four years, and we call 'em "slick arm first." In other words, they have nothing on this arm 'cause they don't have enough years to have even one stripe representing four years. So sometimes people make it in less than four years. He said, but don't worry about that. That doesn't happen. I said, but is it possible? And he says, yeah. And I said, okay, great, not realizing he gave me my first big goal in the service. So to make a, to make it short, I signed up. Two weeks later, I told my mother [Ursula Bernice Carrere] good-bye, and my buds, gave my drums away to the church and went off to Alameda, California.$$Now, how did your mother feel about you joining the Coast Guard?$$Well, she knew it was either that or the [U.S.] Army. And she says, the lesser of two evils in her mind. And she said, my son might come back alive, if he's on a patrol boat. Now, there was a waiting list in the Coast Guard to get to Vietnam 'cause we had these patrol boats, and they, we had some significant casualties over there. But there were so many people that wanted that duty on the river that I thought my chances of going over there were kind of slim. And I was right.$$Okay, okay, so this is 1970?$$1970--$$And--$$November 21st.$Okay, okay, give us some little history on the origin of that position [Chief Usher of The White House] and what it entails?$$Well, it, the way it started, it was not a job titled "chief usher." There were ushers, and they actually, during the time of [President] Thomas Jefferson and other presidents, they--and [President] John Adams, people would be able to come knock on the front door of The White House and say I'd like to have an audience with the president. And so the person that answered the door would usher them in to the sitting room, and they would wait their turn to speak with the president. Now, there would be a few million people knocking on the front door, but that's the origin of that job. And then over time, it grew as the requirements of the house grew. It needed someone to run the staff, the chefs and the butlers and the housekeepers, and then the physical plant. And it was around 1886 that that title "chief usher" was given. I'm trying to think of the, I know J.B. West was one of them. The one just before me was Gary Walters, behind him was Rex Skalton (ph.), J.B. West, Dens Moore, you know, there were a couple other ones. But as years progressed, and after the Truman [President Harry S. Truman] renovation, and after the executive residence became an official ceremonial place, not just the home of the president, but where you would entertain heads of state, with state dinners, and entertainers, the staff had to grow to keep up with that. So that position now is the director. It's like the general manager of a five-star hotel, except you have some pretty important guests. And it does require a full team of engineers and carpenters and painters and butlers and chefs and florists and housekeepers and curators to preserve that house for hopefully, two--400 years from now. So it was a major responsibility, and it was a 12-14 hour days often, average, 11, 11-hour days for eight hours pay, by the way.$$Okay.$$But the house was riddled with loyalty and you just stayed. Not everybody got overtime, certainly not the ushers or the chief usher never got overtime. But you had a job to do, and it was putting a face on America that, when you have a foreign minister or foreign head of state, you wanna make sure the president and this country--that head of state leaves this country realizing that everything ran perfectly. And it was a great visit, and it facilitated maybe some major decisions in the Oval Office because of the whole experience of being there. So we took the job very seriously.

Radm. Lillian Fishburne

U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Fishburne was born on March 25, 1949 in Patuxent River, Maryland. After graduating from Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) with her B.A. degree in 1971, Fishburne enrolled in the U.S. Navy Women’s Officers School in Newport, Rhode Island and was commissioned as an Ensign in 1973. Fishburne went on to receive her M.A. degree in management from Webster College in 1980 and her M.S. degree in telecommunications systems management from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1982. In addition, she is a 1993 graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, in Washington, D.C.

Fishburne was first assigned as the personnel and legal officer at the the Naval Air Test Facility in Lakehurst, New Jersey. In 1974, she reported to the Recruiting District in Miami, Florida as a Navy officer programs recruiter where she worked until 1977. She then served as the officer-in-charge at the Naval Telecommunications Center in Great Lakes, Illinois. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, Fishburne reported to the Command, Control, and Communications Directorate in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations where she served as the assistant head of the Joint Allied Command and Control Matters Branch. In 1984, she became an executive officer at the Naval Communication Station in Yokosuka, Japan before being named as the special projects officer for the Chief of Naval Operations in the Command, Control, and Communications Directorate.

In 1992, Fishburne was appointed as the commanding officer of the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station in Key West, Florida; and, in 1993, she was assigned as the chief of the Command and Control Systems Support Division of the Command, Control, Communications, and Computers Systems Directorate of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Fishburne assumed command of the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Eastern Pacific Station in Wahiawa, Hawaii in 1995, and then reported to the Space, Information Warfare, Command and Control Directorate, Chief of Naval Operations where she served as the director of the Information Transfer Division. On February 1, 1998, Fishburne was promoted to U.S. Navy Rear Admiral making her the first African American female to hold the rank of Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy.

Fishburne’s decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, two Legion of Merit Medals, two Meritorious Service Medals, two Navy Commendation Medals, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.

Rear Admiral Lillian E. Fishburne was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 28, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.082

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/28/2013

Last Name

Fishburne

Maker Category
Middle Name

E.

Occupation
Schools

William Harry Blount Elementary School

Rock Terrace Elementary School

Shih Lin

Julius West Junior High School

Richard Montgomery High School

Dickinson College

Lincoln University

Women Officers School

Webster College

Naval Postgraduate School

Industrial College of the Armed Forces

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Lillian

Birth City, State, Country

Patuxent River

HM ID

FIS04

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Maryland

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

There is a reason for everything.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

3/25/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Barbecue

Short Description

Rear admiral Radm. Lillian Fishburne (1949 - ) was the first African American female to hold the rank of Rear Admiral in the Navy.

Employment

Macy's

Chase Manhattan Bank

Naval Air Test Facility

Naval Telecommunications Center

United States Navy

Naval Communication Station

C4 Directorate

Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station

Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon

Favorite Color

Pink

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lillian Fishburne's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lillian Fishburne lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lillian Fishburne describes her mother's family background, pt.1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lillian Fishburne describes her mother's family background, pt.2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lillian Fishburne describes her father's family background, pt.1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lillian Fishburne describes her father's family background, pt.2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lillian Fishburne talks about her father's service in the U.S. Navy

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lillian Fishburne speaks about helping her father study for the E7 exam and how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lillian Fishburne talks about her older brother and which parent's personality she takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lillian Fishburne describes her earliest childhood memory and the sights, sound and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lillian Fishburne describes her elementary school experience and move to Rockville, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lillian Fishburne talks about her family's move to Taiwan, China

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lillian Fishburne talks about her junior high school and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lillian Fishburne talks about her junior high school and high school experience

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lillian Fishburne discusses the role church played in her growing up, and her childhood interests and activities

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lillian Fishburne talks about her career aspirations in high school and attending college

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lillian Fishburne discusses her studies at Lincoln University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lillian Fishburne talks about her commencement at Lincoln University and spoken word artist, Gil Scott Heron

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lillian Fishburne describes her job search after college

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lillian Fishburne talks about joining the U.S. Navy

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lillian Fishburne discusses her training in the Navy

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lillian Fishburne comments on the treatment of minority women in the U.S. Navy

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Lillian Fishburne talks about black women officers in the U.S. Navy and her duties as an ensign

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lillian Fishburne discusses her first assignment at the U.S. Naval Air Test Facility in Lakehurst, New Jersey

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lillian Fishburne talks about her recruiting duties in Miami and work as a communications officer in Great Lakes Region

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lillian Fishburne talks about her post graduate education and how she met her husband

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lillian Fishburne talks about her telecommunications training, the birth of her daughter, and early FORTRAN computers

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lillian Fishburne talks about her work for the Pentagon and in Japan

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lillian Fishburne discusses the confidential nature of her work for the Pentagon

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lillian Fishburne describes her work as Commanding Officer for Naval Computer and Telecommunications in Key West

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lillian Fishburne talks about her work with the Joint Staff at the Pentagon

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lillian Fishburne discusses her command of the Naval Computer Telecommunications Station in Hawaii

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lillian Fishburne talks about being the U.S. Navy's first African American woman rear admiral

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lillian Fishburne discusses the U.S. Navy's progress concerning race

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lillian Fishburne describes some of the challenges for women in the U.S. Navy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lillian Fishburne discusses her family and her retirement from the U.S. Navy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Lillian Fishburne discusses her and her mother's illness and her interest in helping children

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Lillian Fishburne talks about her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Lillian Fishburne reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Lillian Fishburne talks about her family, her philosophy on managing people and how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Lillian Fishburne describes her photos

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

1$5

DATitle
Lillian Fishburne discusses her first assignment at the U.S. Naval Air Test Facility in Lakehurst, New Jersey
Lillian Fishburne describes some of the challenges for women in the U.S. Navy
Transcript
All right, okay. So all right so your first assignment in, at the Naval Air Test Facility in Lakehurst. So you're, you're a personnel and legal officer. So, so what--tell us about it. How, how your first assignment went.$$It, it was a nice assignment for an ensign, really, really because I had to do a lot of things. We tested arresting gear and catapult gear, you know when you see on the carriers when they shoot the plane off of the carrier deck and when the plane lands, this, this wire, it traps this wire. Well that's, that's what we did. We tested those systems. So I got to--during down time when it wasn't very busy, the pilot would say hey, Elaine, you wanna go up for a ride? So I'd get to, to go up and do cat shots and arresting gear, you know, traps, as an ensign. But first of all I had to come to Pax River [Patuxent River, Maryland]. So they flew me in our little old prop plane, they flew me to Pax River and I got my seat check, this cord which permit--I, I go--that was the first time I'd been back to Pax River since I was there at that dispensary. And so when I got back, I got to you know, go on the, go on the, the airplane trips. So that, that was fun. The other part was that I was there when the Blue Angels crashed. You remember that crash in Lakehurst? The--traditionally when you know they visit a base, they do a, they do a flyover prior to landing. And so we were having a picnic after, after a baseball game I believe it was, and the command was having this. And so some of my shipmates were explaining the patterns and all that were, you know that they were flying and they explained the whole, whole tradition to me. And--$$Of the Blue Angels and the--what they--$$Yeah, about they're doing the flyover.$$And they're, they're like--for those who are watching this and don't understand, the Blue Angels are a special Navy group of--$$Acro--flight acrobatic team, yeah.$$Yeah, so flight, yeah acrobatic team.$$Right. Yeah, so you know they were explaining, that was the fleur-de-lis and they were explaining the different, the different patterns to me. And then one plane kind of--the wing kind of flipped up and got into another one and they said uh-oh. And we were some of the first to arrive at the, at the crash site even before the emergency people got there.$$So this, this is in, this is in--in '74 [1974] '75 [1975], '76, [1976]?$$I believe that was '74 [1974].$$Seventy-four [1974]. Okay I mean it, it can be checked out by anybody watching this, but just to--$$Yeah, '74 [1974].$$Seventy-four [1974], okay. That must have been a horr--well--$$Yeah, we went out to the crash site and once the, you know, we were looking for survivors and once the emergency personnel came there, they, you know, they made everybody leave and you know--when I got back to the base, you know actually the bottom, of, of, of, of my shoes were, they were just burned.$$So it was hot still?$$Yes.$$Now did everybody die in that crash? All, all the Blue Angels?$$No, not all of them.$$Okay, just a couple planes.$$The planes that crashed.$$Yeah, were the pilots well known there at the--$$I, I don't, I don't know if they were well known there.$$Okay. National tragedy, right?$$Yeah.$Okay, okay. Now what were some of the challenges I guess for women in the Navy, you know, as--that you've seen over the years? You're someone that, that kind of crashed through some barriers, you know you, you went through a couple, couple of ceilings to become a rear admiral. But, but what were some of the obstacles and maybe challenges for a woman in the, in the services as an officer in the Navy?$$Some of the, some of the challenges were for a while we were not permitted to, to, to serve on combatant vessels and not even commanding a vessel, combatant vessel. There are certain specialties that, that were not open to us. And so you know every time you take--you know there's a limit put on there as to what you can do, then that says hey, that decreases your chances for promotion. The numbers are not going to be there. The base number is, it's just not going to be there. So you know, you kind of look for, you kind of look for that niche. I found that niche in you know, communications where I could be "in direct support" of the operating forces. And you look at all the other things, you know, you know what have other people done? What's the background of those getting promoted? And, and, and you know, you, you got to work a plan and you also have to for me, I always wanted to have an option, you know. When I originally came in, I could sign up for three or four years. I signed up for three years because if I didn't like it, that fourth year would seem awfully long. So I sort of set a timeframe. I said okay, if I'm in five years, I'll shoot for twenty. But I always try to keep my options open that I could walk any time that I, that I was unhappy.$$Was there ever a time when you thought you might not, you know, you might want to--$$Yeah, there, there were times, of course. I, I preferred being out in the field, working out at the activities, you know, providing that operational support. I you know, I, I, I--if I had my druthers, I, I, I you know but headquarters has its, you know because then that gave me the big picture. But I just didn't like staff work. It wasn't my favorite. So there were times when I said I'm going, you know, it's time to pull the plug. And my husband said when it's time for you to quit or retire, you'll know it because you won't talk about it, you'll just do it.