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Rear Admiral Ross Norman Williams
Oceanographer of the U.S. Navy
RADM Ross Norman Williams passed away on September 18, 2011 in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He was born on Friday the 13th of May 1927, in the Bronx, New York to Harry Howard and Ruth Marie (Hanson) Williams. Ross grew up in New York City and always loved the sea and sailing from an early age. He logged his first sea time taking many trips on the Staten Island ferry to study navigation while in high school. He also enjoyed summers and sailing as a youth at the family summer home on Candlewood Lake in Connecticut.
Admiral Williams comes from many generations of seafaring men and was inspired by his uncles to take up a life on the sea. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on October 5, 1944, at the age of seventeen and launched an amazing career. After attending the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS), he entered the U.S. Naval Academy; via a fleet appointment, on June 17, 1947 and graduated with the Class of 1951 on June 1, 1951. His fellow classmates described him in the "Lucky Bag" as being a sailor from the time of "iron men and wooden ships". He twice skippered the USNA yawl "Royono", including winning the iconic Newport to Bermuda yacht race.
Following graduation, Admiral Williams served on the escort destroyer USS NORRIS (DD-859). He then attended submarine school and served on the USS HALFBEAK (SS-352). His next tour of duty was on USS ALBACORE (AGSS-569); the hydrodynamic prototype; from which all the Navy's modern nuclear-powered submarines have evolved. While stationed at the Submarine base in Groton Connecticut, he met Helen June (Willis), who was the first professional librarian to manage the Submarine Base library, in Groton, Connecticut. They were married at the U.S. Naval Submarine Base, New London (Groton), Connecticut, on the 11th of February 1955.
Admiral Williams was selected for postgraduate studies in Oceanography at the University of Washington in Seattle, followed by a new construction assignment as engineer of the USS BARBEL (SS-580). He then attended Advanced Nuclear Power School in New London, Connecticut, and the A1W Prototype at the Naval Reactor Facility, Idaho Falls, Idaho. He was then assigned to the USS SEAWOLF (SSN-575) and then as Executive Officer of the USS HENRY CLAY (SSBN-625)(Blue). After completing the Prospective Commanding Officer Training at NAVSEA in Washington, D.C., he was assigned as Commanding Officer of the USS BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (SSBN-640) (Gold) and Commanding Officer of the USS TECUMSEH (SSBN-628) (Blue). His next assignment was in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, in Washington, D.C., as the Undersea Long Range Missile System (ULMS)(OP-97C)/Trident Program Coordinator, Head Trident Program Coordination Branch (OP-315/-211), and then as Commanding Officer of the USS L. Y. SPEAR (AS-36), in Norfolk, Virginia.
Admiral Williams was promoted to the flag rank on May 13, 1975 and assigned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense as Military Deputy for Strategic and Space Systems, Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E/USDRE), Washington, D.C., followed by his final posting as the Oceanographer of the Navy and Deputy to the Administrator of NOAA, DOC, Washington, D.C.
Admiral Williams' awards include: Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two gold stars for second and third award, Meritorious Service Medal and a Meritorious Unit Commendation plus other theater and service awards. He retired from the Navy on August 31, 1981.