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Retired U.S. Navy captain Joseph P. Peterson passed away on Sunday, March 5, in Fayetteville, GA. According to his obituary, he is the only African American in the 20th century to enlist as a Seaman, command a submarine, and rise to Navy captain. He was part of the Centennial 7, the small group of seven African Americans who commanded U.S. Navy submarines in the 20th century.


Born and raised in historic Aldie in Virginia, Peterson enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1968. He began his sea tour aboard the ballistic missile nuclear submarine USS Mariano G. Vallejo (SSBN 658). Recognizing his potential, the navy selected him for Officer Candidate School in 1976. Later, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Rollins College in 1980. After graduating with distinction from Officer Candidate School, he was commissioned as an ensign.

During his trailblazing naval career, he served as assistant weapons officer onboard USS Vallejo from 1980 to 1982. From 1983 to 1985, he was assigned as weapons project officer of Trident II Missile Curriculum Development. He served aboard USS Vallejo from 1985-88, twice earning the Battle Efficiency “E” for Excellence as the top submarine in his squadron. Captain Peterson was commanding officer of the research submarine USS Dolphin, the deepest-diving manned submarine in the world, from 1994-97. He was an active participant in the annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) and served as a mentor in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career programs and for his local church and community.

Captain Peterson is survived by his spouse, Alma, a retired NCIS Special Agent and executive; his daughter LaRonda, managing editor of GreenBiz Group; and his son Andrew, a senior warehouse manager of Coca-Cola Consolidated.

A memorial service was held in Fayetteville, Georgia this weekend and attended by surviving members of Centennial 7. The group includes Anthony “Tony” Watson of the USS Jacksonville (1987),  Melvin G. Williams, Jr. of the USS Nebraska (1994), Cecil D. Haney of the USS Honolulu (1996), and Bruce E. Grooms of the USS Asheville (1999). Captain Peterson will be remembered for his leadership and contributions to the United States Navy.

Photo caption: Baltimore, 21 February 2009: Members of the Navy’s Centennial Seven pose with U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen. From left to right, Capt. Pete Tzomes, Rear Adm. Tony Watson, Cmdr. Will Bundy, Vice Adm. Mel Williams, Capt. Joe Peterson, Rear Adm. Cecil Haney, and Rear Adm. Bruce Grooms. The Centennial Seven were the only African Americans to command a submarine during the 20th century. Pictured to the right of Grooms, Cmdr. Rich Bryant, who commanded USS Miami (SSN-755), and Cmdr. Roger Isom, commanded USS Wyoming (SSBN-742). Bryant and Isom were the first two African Americans to command a submarine during the 21st century.

Capt. C. A. “Pete” Tzomes, U.S. Navy
Published June 14, 2019, By USBE Onlinehttps://www.blackengineer.com/article/obituary-for-captain-peter-tzomes-u-s-navy/

Dr. William F. Bundy dies at 73Published December 17, 2019, By USBE Onlinehttps://www.blackengineer.com/article/obituary-1993-beya-winner-dr-william-f-bundy-dies-at-73/

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