posted on February 28, 2011 10:14
On Wednesday, February 23, 2011, Master Chief Melvin G. Williams, Sr. and Vice Admiral Melvin G. Williams, Jr. presented their book Navigating the Seven Seas to a crowd of approximately 50 in the Burke Theatre of the U.S. Navy Memorial, as a part of the Memorial’s “Authors on Deck” series.”
The book, which focuses on how the high-achieving father and son duo rose through the ranks of by following their own “Seven Cs” Character, Competence, Courage, Commitment, Caring, Communicating and Community.
During the pre-discussion reception, the senior Williams expounded on their intentions for sharing their story with the rest of the world. “We wanted to focus on how we could identify with the younger ones coming up, and show them how to be prepared when opportunity presents itself in life. Since the “Cs” served us so well, we thought maybe we could inspire the next generation.”
Rear Admiral Vince Griffith opened the discussion by praising the Memorial for honoring the Navy’s Supply Corps throughout 2010, and how fitting that the culminating event featured the Williams, as the elder one had spent his entire career in the supply corps.
Vice Admiral Melvin Williams Jr. spoke first, adding to the sentiments expressed by his father at the reception “When we sat down to write it [Navigating the Seven Seas], it was about service first - in some way shape or form, young people should consider some type of service. Second was leadership,” he continued. “While we are not experts on the subject, we were so bold as to put or lessons and experiences down in print. And the third thing for the book was opportunity.”
Junior explained that the book was their personal view of a large institution called the US Navy, and the message is that over time, even the largest institution could change their culture. Melvin Williams, Sr. interjected, sharing some of the difficulties he experienced joining the Navy as an African American in 1951, and reminiscing his early thought about how good the Navy could be if they didn’t focus on skin color.
The Vice Admiral praised his father, relating that “Master Chief always maintained a positive attitude, and saw ways to improve within the Navy. During our period of service, there were significant improvements, but the Navy is not there yet.”
The elder Williams picked right back up, recounting how when he ultimately reported to boot camp in 1951, he found himself the only African American in his company—with a photo of the Company on the large screen behind him accentuating the point—and that when he was assigned to “A” school, exactly the opposite was true.
He also shared his memories of the integration of New Orleans, the assassination of MLK and his successful efforts working with Admirals Zumwalt and Holloway, setting forth reform in the navy on some racial issues. “In the classes of 1976-78 there were no African American Master Chiefs in the fleet, today there are over 180. I was able to reap rewards for myself, and others,” Williams, Sr. said.
Both Williams put two of the “Cs,” Caring and Communication, into practice toward the end of the discussion, by publicly recognizing and praising their wives for their lifelong support.
Vice Admiral Williams finished the session by relating one additional “C” to the topic. “A big part of community is the value of diversity. It is something that we all must continue to regard. Even though it has advanced over 30 years, we must understand that there is more work to be done in the Navy.”