Vice Admiral (retired) Mel Williams, Jr. is a 1978 graduate with merit from the U.S. Naval Academy (Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics), he holds a Master of Science degree in Engineering from the Catholic University of America, and he attended Harvard's JFK School of Government (National and International Security). A nuclear-trained submariner, his US Navy service included one year as an enlisted sailor and 32 years as a commissioned officer – including about 10 years in Command.
In 1994, he became the first African American in history to Command a Nuclear Powered Strategic Ballistic Missile submarine (USS NEBRASKA - SSBN 739 Gold crew). As Commanding Officer, his team earned the top US Navy and US Air Force Strategic Performance Award in the Nation (the Omaha Trophy), becoming the first Ohio-class submarine in history to win the prestigious Omaha Trophy award for excellence. The submarine also earned the Meritorious Unit Commendation and the Battle Efficiency ‘E’ award. He is one of the U.S. Navy and Submarine Force “Centennial Seven”- first seven African Americans to Command a U.S. Navy submarine in the first 100-year history of the Submarine Force.
In 2006, he became the sixth African American in US Navy’s history to reach Vice Admiral rank (3 stars) and served as Deputy Commander US Fleet Forces Command. In 2008 he became the Commander U.S. Second Fleet - 130 ships and over 90,000 sailors and marines, and he concurrently served as the Director, Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Center of Excellence - in support of NATO’s transformation in Maritime operations.
In October 2010 he transitioned from the US Navy to the US Department of Energy (DOE) serving (2011-2013) as the Associate Deputy Secretary of Energy (DOE’s number three official) - the Presidential Appointee responsible for day-to-day Management and Operational Excellence, reporting directly to the Secretary of Energy and the Deputy Secretary.
From 2013 to present, his transition to Academia was purposeful: “To create and deliver quality education and research programs that support the careers of all students and supports the US National Defense/Security industries”. He believes that the US STEM Education pipeline into the future workforce is a National Security concern.
His positions in Academia include:
-Associate Provost (Military & Veterans Affairs) at the George Washington University (2013-2016).
-Nuclear Research Consultant at the University of California – Davis (2016 to 2021).
-Associate Dean of Engineering at the Catholic University of America (2017 to present).
He and his Father are co-authors of the leadership book, Navigating the Seven Seas, which since 2012 has been included on the “Navy Reading Program” list by the U.S. Navy, and in 2019 the book made the Washington Post list of “Washington Bestsellers Top 10 non-fiction books”. They are noted as the only African American Father and Son in U.S. Navy history whereby the Father reached a top Enlisted rank of E-9 and the Son reached a top Officer rank of O-9.