Former Commandant Admiral James Gracey Passes Away

Admiral James S. Gracey, 17th Commandant of the United States Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Admiral James S. Gracey,  Commandant of the Coast Guard 1982-1986. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Washington, DC – Admiral James Steele Gracey, USCG (retired), 17th Commandant of the Coast Guard, who passed away on Sunday, 05 April 2020, in Falls Church, VA, at the age of 92.

Born in Newton, Massachusetts in 1927, ADM Gracey graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 1949. ADM Gracey was a 1956 graduate of the Harvard Graduate School where he earned a Masters Degree in Business Administration.

His career included diverse tours both ashore and afloat, including Commanding Officer, LORAN Station Ocean Cape, Yakutat, Alaska; Commanding Officer, CGC MARIPOSA; assistant project officer for the conversion of Governors Island in New York City from an Army post into a Coast Guard Base; Executive Officer, Base Governors Island; and Chief, Programs Division at Coast Guard Headquarters.

Promoted to flag rank in October of 1974, his flag assignments included Commander, Ninth Coast Guard District; Chief of Staff, US Coast Guard; Commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area / Twelfth Coast Guard District; and Commander, Atlantic Area / Third Coast Guard District.

ADM Gracey served as Commandant from 1982 until his retirement in 1986. During his tenure, ADM Gracey successfully steered the service through difficult budget climates and prevented privatization of many missions, including search-and-rescue. He oversaw major asset overhauls and the addition of new capabilities to the fleet, including additional Famous-class medium-endurance cutters, Island-class patrol boats and HU-25A Falcon aircraft. He delivered Coast Guard support for U.S. military and joint international operations, including the 1983 invasion of Grenada and Operation BLUE LIGHTNING, an interagency Task Force established in South Florida that linked efforts with the Government Commonwealth of the Bahamas to seize record amounts of illegal narcotics. Admiral Gracey stated his greatest accomplishment during his tenure as Commandant was “the ability to keep the USCG afloat, keep it on an even keel, and keep it moving forward.”

ADM Gracey is survived by his wife of almost 71 years, Randy; their daughter, Cheryl, and son, Kevin; three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his daughter Pamela.

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One Comment

  1. John Fail says:

    When I was on active duty, I served under Adm. Gracey when he was commander of the 9th Coast Guard District. I had known him from previous assignments during my 20 year career from 1956 to 1977. I never knew of a finer man than Adm. Gracey, he was responsible for many of my “breaks” during my career. I had planned many times over the last 30 years to try to contact him just to say hello and how much I admired him. Now he is gone and I will never get that chance again, a terrible mistake on my part.

    Does anyone have a mailing address for his family so that I can send a card of condolence? If so please email it to me at jfail1 @ cox.net. To me he was just not just my commander, I admired him and I considered him a true friend. The Coast Guard has lost a true patriot. Fairwinds and following seas my friend, and as we always shared “Semper Paratus”

    QMC John Fail U.S.C.G. (Retired)