Rear Adm. Lillian Fishburne
Adm. Lillian Fishburne
Rose To Become Service's First Female African-American Flag Officer
| Rear Adm. Lillian Fishburne. (Courtesy
Father Ryan High School, Nashville, Tenn.)
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By Bethanne Kelly Patrick
In 1998, when then-Secretary of Defense William
Cohen delivered the speech at an occasion honoring, among others, Rear
Adm. Lillian Fishburne, he quoted retired Air Force Maj. Albert Murray,
an acclaimed novelist: "Heroism... is measured in terms of the stress
and strain it can endure, and the magnitude and complexity of the obstacles
that it overcomes... which bring out the best in [potential heroes]."
"Considering the stresses and strains endured by African-Americans in
the defense of our country, it's little wonder that we have so many
heroes among us," Cohen added.
Fishburne, the first female African-American to be promoted to flag
rank in the U.S. Navy, "is a woman whose story helps us to understand
the truth that women are an indispensable part of today's military,"
Cohen said. Fishburne was born near the water at Patuxent River, Md.,
and into a naval family. Her active-duty father never questioned his
daughter's military career ambitions because she was female, and his
faith in her paid off. She graduated from Lincoln University in Oxford,
Pa., and less than two years later completed Women Officers School training
at Newport, R.I. She was commissioned an ensign in 1973.
Fishburne's first assignment was as personnel and legal officer at the
Naval Air Test Facility in Lakehurst, N.J. Her early career included
a recruiting tour and charge of the Naval Telecommunications Center
in Great Lakes, Ill. She attended the Naval Postgraduate School for
two years and then took the position of assistant head, Joint Allied
Command and Control Matters Branch. Appointments to positions like executive
officer at the Naval Communications Command in Yokosuka, Japan, and
special projects officer for the Navy's Command, Control, and Communications
Directorate led to her selection for the Industrial College of the Armed
After leading the Command and Control Systems Support Division in Washington,
D.C., and commanding the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area
Master Station, Eastern Pacific, in Hawaii, Fishburne was promoted to
rear admiral on Feb. 1, 1998. Currently, she serves as director of the
Information Transfer Division for the Space, Information Warfare, Command
and Control Directorate, Chief of Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.