Witherspoon was a sailor, a mentor and a pioneer. He was also a leader, an honorable man, someone who commanded respect and a "do-as-I-do" kind of leader. After a stint in the Army, Witherspoon joined the Coast Guard in 1963. He advanced to the rate of quartermaster first class and then was selected for Officer Candidate School. Witherspoon graduated with honors and was commissioned as an Ensign in June 1971.
Upon taking command of CGC Mallow in 1982, Witherspoon became the second African-American officer to command a Coast Guard cutter. He was the first African-American to command a Coast Guard shore unit when he assumed command of the Houston/Galveston Vessel Traffic Service. Witherspoon later commanded CGCs Valiant and Dependable. Witherspoon was a kind, outgoing, generous, caring, down-to-earth, soft-spoken man who gently touched the lives of many, yet left a strong, lasting impression on everyone who knew him. In his memory, the Commandant established the Capt. John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award.
- 2020 Witherspoon (Active Duty) Inspirational Leadership Award Winner: LCDR Dana Dougherty
- 2020 Witherspoon (Reserve) Inspirational Leadership Award Winner: LCDR James Thach
This award annually recognizes the Coast Guard officer, active duty and reserve, who best exemplifies the Coast Guard’s core values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty.
- Exemplifies the Coast Guard core values of honor (integrity), respect (esteem of junior and seniors), and devotion to duty (ethical behavior).
- Fosters a culture of diversity through inclusion and commitment
- Mentors both junior and senior personnel toward their highest potential
- Leads and motivates by example to ensure mission execution excellence
Recommendations: Commandant (CG-128) solicits nominations via ALCOAST message annually. Award period will be adjusted based on calendar year (January-December).
Specific Nomination Guidelines - Nomination Deadline: January 15, 2021
- The guidelines are intentionally flexible and extends to all regular and reserve officers serving on active duty during the calendar year. Consideration for the Witherspoon extends to all regular and reserve officers serving on active duty during the calendar year. Reserve officers serving on active duty over 30 days may be considered alongside regular active duty candidates; it is the command's discretion to determine whether it is reasonable for the reserve member to compete in either category.
- Nominations shall be submitted by any Coast Guard member or civilian employee in the form of a memorandum, NOT to exceed two pages. Each nomination must be typed using Times New Roman (12 point) font with one inch margins. Any package that exceeds two pages will not be considered.
- The memorandum nominating the member shall be signed by the member's officer-in-charge or commanding officer. A "signature endorsement", per The Coast Guard Correspondence Manual (COMDTINST M5216.4C), is required by the first O6 in the nominated member's chain of command. If the nominated member's commanding officer is an O6 then a signature endorsement is NOT required.
- Nominations must be forwarded to Commandant (CG-128) via the chain of command. Note: If a commanding officer is nominated, the next level command shall endorse the nomination.
- The nomination should identify specific examples and supporting information on how the nominee exemplifies each of the criteria established in section (a) by using action impact statements explaining how the member inspired others and influenced favorable outcomes. Note: Feedback from previous selection panels continues to stress that nominations should directly address leadership methodologies and climate rather than simply reporting accomplishments.
- Scanned copies of signed nominations and endorsements shall be sent by email to HQS-SMB-CG-128TrainingCourses@uscg.mil. Please save PDF under the naming convention: memberranklastname_nameofaward_activedutyorreserve_year (for example: LCDRjones_witherspoon_activeduty_2018)
- A selection panel will review the nominations and make recommendations to the Assistant Commandant for Human Resources (CG-1) for approval.
Presentation: The award will be presented at an appropriate ceremony at the district command closest to the winner. CG-128 will supply the District POCs with the award and other pertinent information for the award presentation. The Reserve recipient requiring ADOS-RC orders for pay, allowances and travel shall follow normal procedures for requesting orders through the chain of command.