Retired Navy admiral, DC native opens up about paving way for young Black submarine officers (Cecil Haney, 29th Co.)

Stephanie Gaines-Bryant |

February 6, 2023, 10:11 AM

This is part of WTOP’s continuing coverage of people making a difference from our community authored by Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. Read more of that coverage.

The Navy’s second Black four-star admiral and first Black four-star submariner is a native of D.C. who says he was always military-inclined and may have watched too much of the 1962 show “Combat” while growing up.

Retired Navy Adm. Cecil Eugene Diggs Haney is the son of an army veteran who served in the Quartermaster Corp during World War II. But like many people from “the greatest generation,” Haney said, “He didn’t talk about it much. He didn’t like the idea of glorifying warfare.”

He is a 1978 graduate of the United States Naval Academy where he studied ocean engineering.

Recently, he was selected as a 2023 distinguished graduate. According to their website, the USNA’s Alumni Association and Foundation honor five extraordinary Naval Academy alums that have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to service, have an exemplary personal character and have made distinguished contributions to the nation and their fields of endeavor. Each graduate has also dedicated themselves to the support of the Naval Academy and the alumni community.

Haney said he chose to become a submarine officer because he enjoyed the small team concept where you knew everybody on your team. He served as a commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in 2012 to 2013 and the U.S. Strategic Command from 2013 to 2016. As a submarine officer, he commanded the USS Honolulu.

Retired Navy Admiral Cecil Eugene Diggs Haney

Haney was also a member of the Centennial Seven, the first seven Black submarine commanding officers.

According to Haney, the Centennial Seven was all about mentoring and helping those following in their footsteps.

“I think it’s important to have a mentor to understand the ropes and the opportunities, and to have someone to talk to about the challenges you may be facing,” he said.

The retired admiral said family and faith have been driving forces in his life.

“It’s a way of keeping you humble and grounded. Quite frankly, that helped me through the grind of being in the military and being away from home for long periods of time,” he said.

Haney said throughout the years, he and his wife, Bonny, would find a church wherever they were located and develop as many friends in that community as in the Navy.

He now serves on multiple boards, including the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Board of Managers, the Naval Studies Board and the Board of Directors for General Dynamics Corporation.

Hanry retired in 2017 after 38 years of distinguished service.