Adm. James S. Gracey, 17th commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1982 to 1986, has died at age 92, according to family friends.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, a memorial service won’t be held in the near future but is expected to take place at Memorial Service at Calvary Methodist Church in Arlington, Va., at date to be announced. There will also be an internment at Coast Guard Hill.
Condolences may be sent to Gracey’s wife of more than 70 years, Mrs. Dorcas “Randy” Gracey, c/o The Kensington, 700 West Broad Street, Suite 413, Falls Church, VA 22046.
Gracey was born on Aug. 24, 1927, in Newton, Mass., and graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a commission of Ensign on June 3, 1949.
From September 1951 to April 1953, he was stationed at the Captain of the Port Office, Boston, MA where he was the Dangerous Cargo and Vessel Movements Officer. He also served collateral duty as Cadet Procurement Officer for Northern New England. Between March and May 1953 he attended the LORAN Indoctrination School at Coast Guard Training Station, Groton, CT. After completing the course he commanded the LORAN Transmitting Station, Ocean Cape, Yakutat, AK, for one year.
He then returned to the Academy for a brief assignment as Assistant Tactics Officer and Baseball coach from June to September 1954. During the following two years he was a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration where he received an MBA in June 1956. As part of his work at Harvard, he spent the summer of 1955 in Industry Training at Norton Company, Worcester, MA.
From July 1956 to July 1960, he served at Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, DC, as a Branch Chief in the Supply Division. During the following two years he commanded the buoy tender Mariposa out of New London, CT. The ship serviced aids to navigation along the seacoast of Connecticut and Long Island and broke ice on the Hudson River
From September 1962 to April 1965, he served as Comptroller, Second Coast Guard District, St. Louis, MO with collateral duties that included Cadet Procurement in Kansas and Missouri. He then transferred to the Third Coast Guard District staff in New York to serve as assistant Project Officer for the conversion of Fort Jay, Governors Island from an Army post to a Coast Guard facility. His duties included developing the organization for the host command and planning all the Island’s “humanities.” For that duty he was awarded the Secretary of Treasury Commendation for Achievement Ribbon. From March 1966 to June 1969, he was Executive Officer of the Coast Guard Base at Governors Island for which he received a Coast Guard Letter of Commendation. His special duties during that period included community relations with the large Island population and labor relations, including negotiating contracts with several different unions.
Deep selected for the rank of Captain, he returned to Headquarters in July 1969 to assume to the post of Chief, Programs Division under the Chief of Staff. For outstanding meritorious achievement in those duties, he received the Meritorious Service Medal in 1973. Among other accomplishments he was cited for formulating planning, programming, and budgeting procedures and for developing a computer program for analyzing and translating resource requirements into a printout display to aid the analytical processes in budget planning.
Following his nomination to flag rank by the President on 17 January 1974, and the approval of the Senate, Captain Gracey was transferred to Portsmouth, VA in June 1974 to become Chief of Staff, Fifth Coast Guard District. He was promoted to Rear Admiral from 1 October 1974. At that time he assumed duties of Commander, Ninth Coast Guard District, Cleveland, OH which covers Coast Guard operations in the Great Lakes region. For that tour of duty he was awarded the Legion of Merit in 1977.
In addition to his duties as District Commander, ADM Gracey served as Chairman of the Cleveland Federal Executive Board, Chairman of the Great Lakes Basin Commission’s Standing Committee on Transportation and as Vice Chairman of the Winter Navigation Board. His other accomplishments included resolving long-standing issues regarding Great Lake Pilotage and negotiating for the Secretary of Transportation a new agreement with Canada regarding those issues.
Transferred again to Headquarters in August 1977, ADM Gracey assumed the post of Chief of Staff of the U. S. Coast Guard. For his performance in this assignment he was awarded a second Legion of Merit.
Promotion to Vice Admiral came when Admiral Gracey accepted command of the Coast Guard Pacific Area and Twelfth Coast Guard District in San Francisco on 1 July 1978. In San Francisco he also served as Regional Emergency Transportation Coordinator, Chairman of Department of Transportation’s Regional Hazardous Materials Working Group, Chairman of the Minority Business Opportunity Committee of the San Francisco Federal Executive Board, and a Trustee of United Way.
After his tour as Commander of the Pacific Area, he transferred to Commander, Atlantic Area and Commander, Third Coast Guard District. On 28 May 1982, Admiral Gracey assumed the post of Commandant of the Coast Guard with the rank of Admiral.
During his tour as Commandant ADM Gracey successfully maintained the service through difficult budget battles each year and successfully fought attempts to privatize many USCG functions, including a Congressional attempt to privatize SAR. He also directed the service when the Atlantic Strike Team battled a Virginia fire, the largest in history. Making sure the USCG was on the cutting edge of technology; new units were added to the fleet, including more 270-footers, 110-foot patrol boats, and Hu-25A Falcons. He also upgraded much of the existing fleet with the FRAM and MMA programs.