Farewell CDR Smith, USN (Ret.)

Farewell CDR Smith, USN (Ret.)

It is with great sadness that I let our NNOA Family know of the passing of Commander Merle Smith, the first African American to graduate from the United States Coast Guard Academy.  More will be shared and I know your prayers and thoughts are welcomed by his family.


It is with great sadness that I inform you that CDR Merle James Smith, USCG (retired), passed away on June 16th, 2021 in New London, CT.  As many of you know, CDR Smith is the namesake of the Eclipse Legacy Coalitions “Merle J. Smith Eclipse Legacy Endowment,” which was established in 2017.  Merle J. Smith was the second African American to receive an appointment to the Academy and the first to graduate in June of 1966.  He was characterized as an excellent CGA Cadet, excelling with hard work in the classroom, in the barracks and on the football field.  CDR Smith Served as the Commanding Officer of a Patrol Boat during the Vietnam War and achieved his Juris Doctor, becoming a licensed attorney in 1974, all before being assigned to the Coast Guard Academy law faculty in 1975.  It was then that LT Smith’s impact at CGA would become legendary as a teacher, mentor and coach.  He served as the Class Advisor for the class of 1977, as an assistant football coach under the great Otto Graham and was an inspirational example for many of the young cadets to follow.  Including the class of 1978’s VADM Manson Brown, USCG (ret), who would tout “LT Smith modeled for us what we could become in the Coast Guard.  As such, he added to our motivation to stay and do the hard work necessary to thrive at the Academy.”

There is so much more to learn and remember about CDR Merle J. Smith, and the Eclipse Legacy Coalition will provide more details as time goes. However, for a couple of great reads on CDR Smith’s legacy please read:

The Long Blue Line: Merle Smith – the first African American graduate of the Coast Guard Academy « Coast Guard COAST GUARD COMPASS (dodlive.mil)


The Day – Coast Guard Academy renames officers club after first black graduate, retired Cmdr. Merle Smith – News from southeastern Connecticut

One, life is precious, and every day is truly a present. June 2021

One, life is precious, and every day is truly a present. June 2021

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV

The writer of this extremely popular text begins with a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. Then the writer starts to name all the events in life that there is time for and season. It almost appears as if the writer is looking back over their life and reflecting on all they have seen and experienced. As a result of the reflection, we have Ecclesiastes chapter three. Unfortunately, the text usually is heard at a funereal. I think there is so much more we can learn from the reflections of the writer.

One, life is precious, and every day is truly a present. It is in the moment we create our memories and future reflections. How amazing if we took more time to be present and not worry about what is coming next. We are writing our eulogy from the moment we awake. It is a matter of what do we want our eulogy to say? While gathering, things are excellent, and yes, we should have a legacy to pass down to our future generations. Have we become consumed with gathering and obsessed with the future? We should be careful not to allow our collecting to overtake the enjoyment of our present relationships.

Two, everything has a beginning and an end. It is how we view the changes and transitions in our lives that matter. We all know that we cannot stay in the military forever, at the same duty station, or be in a particular position for an extended period. What does life like for us who are experiencing a transition in our journey? Are we excited about new opportunities, adventures, and relationships? How do we embrace the next phase of our lives with newfound excitement?

The writer appears to write out of their personal experience. I encourage us to take this text and come from our personal experience and a place of excitement and joy as we know the opportunity for the impact we have for each season in our lives, even if it is only for a moment! We never know what the seeds planted today will yield in tomorrow’s harvest.


Reverend Takana L. Jefferson, United States Navy, Chaplain