London Eugene Livingston Steverson (born
March 13 1947) was one of the first two African Americans to graduate from the United States Coast Guard Academyin 1968. Later, as chief of the newly formed Minority Recruiting Section of the United States Coast Guard(USCG), he was charged with desegregating the Coast Guard Academy by recruiting minority candidates. He retired from the Coast Guard in 1988 and in 1990 was appointed to the bench as a Federal Administrative Law Judge with the Office of Hearings and Appeals, Social Security Administration.
Early life and education
Steverson was born and raised in
Millington, Tennessee, the oldest of three children of Jerome and Ruby Steverson. At the age of 5 he was enrolled in the E. A. Harrold elementary school in a segregated school system. He later attended the all black Woodstock High School in Memphis, Tennessee, graduating valedictorian.
A Presidential Executive Order issued by President Truman had desegregated the armed forces in 1948, [ [http://www.trumanlibrary.org/9981.htm Truman Library - Executive Order 9981 ] ] but the service academies were lagging in officer recruiting. President Kennedy specifically challenged the
United States Coast Guard Academyto tender appointments to Black high school students. London Steverson was one of the Black student to be offered such an appointment, and when he accepted the opportunity to be part of the class of 1968, he became the second African Americanto enter the previously all-white military academy. On June 4, 1968 Steverson graduated from the Coast Guard Academy with a BS degree in Engineering and a commission as an ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard.
In 1974, while still a member of the Coast Guard, Steverson entered The National Law Center of
The George Washington Universityand graduated in 1977 with a Juris Doctor of Laws Degree.
Steverson's first duty assignment out of the Academy was in Antarctic research logistical support. In July 1968 he reported aboard the Coast Guard Cutter (CGC) Glacier [http://www.laesser.org/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=90&Itemid=38] (WAGB-4), an
icebreakeroperating under the control of the U.S. Navy, and served as a deck watch officer and head of the Marine Science Department. He traveled to Antarcticaduring two patrols from July 1968 to August 1969, supporting the research operations of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Research Project in and around McMurdo Station. During the 1969 patrol the CGC Glacier responded to an international distress call from the Argentine icebreaker "General SanMartin", which they freed.
He received another military assignment from 1970 to 1972 in
Juneau, Alaskaas a Search and Rescue Officer. Before being certified as an Operations Duty Officer, it was necessary to become thoroughly familiar with the geography and topography of the Alaskan remote sites. Along with his office mate, Ltjg Herbert Claiborne "Bertie" Pell, the son of Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell, Steverson was sent on a familiarization tour of Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force bases. The bases visited were Base Kodiak, Base Adak Island, and Attu Island, in the Aleutian Islands. [ [http://www.hlswilliwaw.com/aleutians/attu-homepage.htm Attu Homepage ] ]
Steverson was the Duty Officer on September 4, 1971 when an emergency call was received that an Alaskan Airlines Boeing 727 airline passenger plane was overdue at Juneau airport. This was a Saturday and the weather was foggy with drizzling rain. Visibility was less than one-quarter mile. The 727 was en route to Seattle, Washington from Anchorage, Alaska with a scheduled stop in Juneau. There were 109 people on board and there were no survivors. Steverson received the initial alert message and began the coordination of the search and rescue effort. In a matter of hours the wreckage from the plane, with no survivors, was located on the side of a mountain about five miles from the airport. For several weeks the body parts were collected and reassembled in a staging area in the National Guard Armory only a few blocks from the Search and Rescue Center where Steverson first received the distress broadcast. [ [http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=62043&key=0 DCA72AZ003 ] ] . Later a full investigation with the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the cause of the accident was equipment failure. [ [http://www.historycentral.com/aviation/disasters.html Aviation Disasters Crashes ] ]
Another noteworthy item is Steverson's involvement as an Operations Officer during the seizure of two Russian fishing vessels, the "Kolevan" and the "Lamut" for violating an international agreement prohibiting foreign vessels from fishing in United States
territorial waters. The initial attempts at seizing the Russian vessels almost precipitated an international incident when the Russian vessels refused to proceed to a U. S. port, and instead sailed toward the Kamchatka Peninsula. Russian MIG fighter planes were scrambled, as well as American fighter planes from Elmendorf Air Force Basebefore the Russian vessels changed course and steamed back to Anchorage, where a U.S. Attorneywas waiting to prosecute the vessels for the violations of fishing treaties.
Because of his icebreaker experience, Steverson was later made the Seventeenth District's first Ice Operations Officer. With the increased activity at
Point Barrowand on the North Slope of Alaska brought on by the discovery of the vast oil reserves, more Coast Guard icebreakers were making patrols North of the Bering Sea, where icebreaking is necessary.
The Coast Guard did not have a separate Judge Advocate General's Corp (JAG). Coast Guard lawyers were called "legal specialists". These law specialists were line officers and could rotate out of the regular legal billets. Frequently these tours of duty out of specialty were in law related areas. Steverson served one such four year tour of duty as the Chief Marine Investigating Officer for the Marine Inspection Office in Battery Park, New York from 1982 to 1986. This job was similar to that of a city prosecutor. With a staff of ten investigating officers, he would investigate marine disasters for negligence and causes of action. Any marine personnel found to have violated a marine safety law would be charged and tried before a Coast Guard administrative law judge at the World Trade Center. In the case of a major marine disaster with multiple loss of life, a formal Board of Inquiry would be convened under the direction of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). These Inquiries often would result in promulgation of new marine safety regulations under Title 46 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). One such incident was the Case of The Joan LaRie III, a charter fishing vessel that sank of the coast of New Jersey on October 24, 1982. [http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-m/moa/boards/joanlerie.pdf] [http://www.webandwire.com/coast%20guard%20casualties.htm] [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B06E4D61739F93AA35752C1A964948260 Missing Body Is Found In Jersey Boat Sinking - New York Times ] ]
USCG Minority Recruiting
In July 1972 Steverson was reassigned from Alaska to
Washington, D.C.to become the Chief of the newly formed Minority Recruiting Section of the USCG, and was charged with working toward desegregating the nearly all-white USCG, starting with the United States Coast Guard Academy.
From 1876 until 1962 the Academy had not admitted any African-American cadets. One graduated in 1966, two graduated in 1968 (including Steverson) and one graduated in 1970. After that none were admitted until Steverson was placed in charge of the national recruiting effort. As the second minority cadet to enter and graduate from this institution, Steverson had obvious expertise in this endeavor.
He traveled the country looking for qualified minority high school students who could compete for admission. Since the Coast Guard Academy is the only one of the
United States military academiesthat does not require a Congressional appointment, and admission is strictly on the basis of the Scholastic Aptitude Testwith additional consideration of extra-curricular involvement, minority applicants stood a better chance of being admitted to the Coast Guard Academy than to Annapolis, West Point or the Air Force Academy.
His efforts were rewarded in 1973 when 28 Black cadets were sworn into the Class of 1977, and again in 1974 when 20 Black cadets were admitted as part of the Class of 1978. It was from these cadets that the Coast Guard's first African-American officers of flag rank were to come in the 1990s; officers such as Admiral Joseph Jones, Admiral Errol Brown and Admiral Manson K. Brown.
While Lieutenant Steverson was charged first and foremost with recruiting cadets for the Academy (because that is where the bulk of the career officers would come from), he was also requested to find minority college graduates who were willing receive direct commissions as lawyers and as aviators. These officers were already college graduates and had no need to attend the four year Academy, instead received a three month orientation at the Coast Guard Officer Training Center. He recruited several people from the
Vanderbilt University Law School.
After serving two years in this position, he was replaced by the Academy's first graduate from
Guam, Juan Tudela Salas. [http://www.offisland.com/armedsalas.html Info about Juan Tudela Salas]
He next worked as a Law Specialist in the 12th Coast Guard District Office, San Francisco, California and as an Assistant U. S. Attorney for the collection of Civil Penalties under the Federal Boating Safety Act from 1979 to 1982. An Assistant District Legal Officer, he was required to defend as well as prosecute military members who had been charged with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Occasionally he was asked to represent other officers in administrative actions involving sexual harassment and discrimination. One such case was the Case of Christine D. Balboni against the Department of Transportation and the United States Coast Guard (DOT Case No. 82-177). Ensign Balboni was one of the first female graduates of the Coast Guard Academy. She graduated in the Class of 1981 and was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter RUSH, a high endurance law enforcement vessel stationed in Alameda, California. She filed a formal complaint of sexual harassment against three senior officers on board the RUSH. She alleged that false special fitness reports had been written concerning her and that the captain of the ship had requested her immediate transfer off the ship long before her normal rotation date. After no other lawyer would take her case, Commander Ronald Mathews, Chief of The 12th District Legal Office, assigned Lieutenant Commander Steverson to represent Ensign Balboni in a formal departmental administrative hearing before a federal administrative law judge. The charges made by Ensign Balboni were determined to be valid. The relief granted was to have the false special fitness reports removed from her service record and destroyed. She was promoted to the next higher rank. Her career was saved. No disciplinary action was taken against the offending officers. [ [http://www.gmu.edu/alumni/spirit/winter03/transitions.html Transitions - The Mason Spirit - George Mason University ] ] [ [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r107:S19SE2-0037: Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress) ] ]
He became the Chief of the Investigating Division at the Marine Inspection Office New York City. In 1986 he was detailed to the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System under the Office of Vice President at the time,
George H. W. Bush.
When he retired in June 1988 he became the first African-American Coast Guard Academy graduate to retire as a regular line office from the service, and held the rank of Lieutenant-Commander during his last 10 years of service.
He retired to Dumont, New Jersey and practiced law in New York, with a focus on family law and defending Coast Guardsmen accused of federal crimes. He is a member of the New York State, New York City, and Tennessee
In July 1990 he was appointed a federal administrative law judge by President
George W. Bush. He was assigned to the Ninth Region of the Social Security Office of Hearings and Appeals in California. [http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/7862/2758/320/AljOmaha35630520.jpg]
Black Cadets at the Coast Guard Academy
* [http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/integration/IAF-20.htm Integration of the Armed Forces 1940-1965, chapter 20] Limited Response to Discrimination - includes info about President
John F. Kennedy's personal involvement with the first attempts to desegregate the USCG Academy, which was a direct cause of London Steverson's admission into the Academy.
* [http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/history/h_USCGhistory.html USCG history page] - See of this page starting with caption for picture of the "Lamut" (about 2/3 the way down the page).
* [http://www.pacificunionrecorder.com/enlarge.html?gpID=2618 Photo of the judge in robes on the bench]
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