Evelyn J. Fields (born 1949) is a rear admiral (retired) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, who served as the director of the Commissioned Officer Corps and director of NOAA's Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, until her retirement in 2003. She was nominated for this position by U.S. President Bill Clinton on January 19, 1999, confirmed by the Senate on May 6, 1999, and promoted from captain to rear admiral, upper half. Fields was the first woman, and first African American, to hold this position.
Earlier in her career, in 1989, Fields was given command of the research vessel, NOAAS McArthur, thus becoming the first woman and first African American to command a NOAA ship, and the first woman to command a ship in the United States uniformed services for an extended assignment.
Early life and education
Evelyn Juanita Fields was born in Norfolk, Virginia on 29 January 1949, the oldest of five children. She attended Liberty Park Elementary School and Booker T. Washington High School. Fields graduated from Norfolk State University in 1971 with a degree in mathematics.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Fields began her career with NOAA in 1972 as a civilian cartographer at NOAA's Atlantic Marine Center in Norfolk, Virginia. She was commissioned an ensign in the NOAA Corps in 1973, shortly after NOAA began recruiting women, and was the first African-American woman to join the Corps. She was selected for and attended the Armed Forces Staff College. In the field of hydrography, she spent on an oceanographic and fisheries research vessel. This experience turned out to be what she considered one of the highlights of her career as an NOAA Corps officer.
In 1989, Fields was chosen by NOAA's Selection Board to serve as commanding officer of the NOAA ship McArthur, an oceanographic and fisheries research vessel based in Seattle, Washington. Commanding a ship is an important step along the career path of an officer, but never before in NOAA had a woman been chosen for this responsibility. Fields was the first female officer to command a NOAA ship and the first African-American woman to command a ship for an extended period within the nation's uniformed services. She was director of the Commissioned Personnel Center (CPC), which is responsible for all aspects of a uniformed service personnel system in support of the NOAA Corps officers.
During her twenty-five years of commissioned service, RADM Fields has served in a variety of billets, both staff and operational. She has served on the ships Mt. Mitchell and Peirce as operations officer, and Rainier as executive officer. Deployments have included both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Alaskan waters. Her sea experience covers hydrographic survey operations, fisheries research, and oceanographic research. Because of her demonstrated expertise and professionalism, she was the second U.S. Exchange Hydrographer with Canada. After the exchange program, she was responsible for reviewing, critiquing, and determining whether the hydrographic survey data submitted by Atlantic Marine Center field units was complete and adequate for final acceptance into the processing system.
Afterward, as assignment coordinator for the Office of NOAA Corps Operations, she worked with all program areas of NOAA, providing sound advice to both programs and officers regarding officer assignments. Rear Admiral Fields retired 1 December 2003.
Fields is a member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority.