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U.S. Coast Guard
2703 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE
Washington, D.C. 20593-7907
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.
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.
Recommendations: Commandant (CG-128) solicits nominations via ALCOAST message annually. Award period will be adjusted based on calendar year (January-December).
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.