John Brown Frazier
Captain (Chaplian) United States Navy
indeed provide life-transforming service throughout and beyond the Sea Services.”
With these words, the current Chief of Chaplains, Rear Admiral Barry Black, paid homage to the groundwork laid by Frazier as the Navy’s first Chief of Chaplains, charting a course the Chaplain Corps continues to follow today.
Chaplain Black made his remarks at a ceremony
honoring Frazier at Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony was
Deputy Chaplain of the Marine Corps Randy Cash initiated the work to have the gravestone updated, and provided a summary of Chaplain Frazier’s career at the re-dedication ceremony:
“While serving as the Deputy Director for the Navy Chaplains School in 1998, I made a visit to Arlington and found Chaplain Frazier’s resting place,” said Cash. “I noticed the year of his death had not been inscribed on the headstone, nor did it signify his role as the first Chief of Chaplains.
“Thanks to contributions from former Chiefs of Chaplains, we were able to have his headstone finished. It’s important to the Corps that we recognize our first Chief who provided us all a sense of direction and unity.”
Captain John Brown Frazier, a Southern Methodist
minister, was appointed as head of the Chaplain Corps on November 5, 1917.
As early as 1871, chaplains had advocated for one of their number to represent
their interests in Washington.
Chaplain William W. Edel, who retired chaplain
in 1946 after nearly 30 years wrote of Frazier, saying “He was a big, hardmuscled
man, with a face that looked have been chiseled out of stone, and he resolute
as he looked. But under that
The Office of Chief of Naval Chaplains officially
created by law until December when the rank of Rear Admiral was attached
to the position. Within the Chaplain Corps, the title “Chief of Chaplains”
was universally used before
When the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, there were only 40 chaplains on active duty in the Navy. By the time of the signing of the Armistice on Novemnber 11, 1918, 200 chaplains were serving. Three decades later, during World War II, over 2,800 men wore the uniform of the Navy chaplain.
Rear Admiral Robert D. Workman, Chief of Chaplains during World War II (and the first to be made Rear Admiral while still on active duty), paid tribute to Chaplain Frazier during burial services for him on November 11, 1939, at Arlington Cemetery.
Workman said, “Upon the shoulders of our first
Chief rested the responsibility of selecting an exceptionally large number
of new chaplains, and of establishing our Corps and its responsibilities
on a basis such as had never been undertaken prior to that time. The manner
in which Chaplain Frazier faced his task and the degree of success which
he attained have left us an example and a heritage for which we must ever
FRAZIER, JOHN BROWN
CAPT CHAPLAIN US NAVY
DATE OF DEATH: 01/01/1939
BURIED AT: SECTION 7 SITE 10058
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
FRAZIER, CATHERINE C W/O JOHN B
Photos By M. R. Patterson, June 2003