Fran McKee – Rear Admiral, United States Navy

Admiral Fran McKee; Among First Women To Achieve Rank 
Saturday, March 16, 2002


Fran McKee, 75, a retired Navy Rear Admiral who was the first female line officer to be promoted to flag rank, died of a cerebral hemorrhage March 3, 2002, at Inova Fairfax Hospital. She lived in Annandale.

Admiral McKee had been in the Navy since 1950 and was commanding officer of the Naval Security Group Command at Fort Meade when she was promoted to Rear Admiral. She was then transferred to Pensacola, Florida, to head management of all levels of military education programs, from NJROTC units in high schools to the Navy Postgraduate School.

Her promotion marked the second time a woman had been made Admiral, according to retired Air Force Major General Jeanne Holm, author of “Women in the Military, an Unfinished Revolution.” The first woman so promoted was Staff Officer Alene B. Duerk, chief of the Navy nurse corps, who was made a Rear Admiral in 1972.

Admiral McKee retired from active duty in 1981 as director of human resources management in the office of the chief of naval operations in Washington.

She had been a permanent Washington area resident since 1978.

Admiral McKee was born in Florence, Alabama, and graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in chemistry. She received a master's degree in international affairs from George Washington University.

She entered the Navy after her undergraduate studies, as U.S. troops were being deployed to the Korean War.

“She was very patriotic,” according to retired Navy Captain Barbara Nyce, a longtime friend. “Her plan was to serve two years to do her part for the war effort. But 31 years later, she was still there.”

She attended the Naval War College and served in a variety of stateside assignments, including instructor at naval schools command, mobilization and classification officer at Naval Air Reserve Training Command and officer-in-charge of the Naval Women Officers School.

Her military decorations included the Legion of Merit, the Expert Pistol Medal and the Sharpshooter Rifle Ribbon.

Survivors include two sisters.

History Maker McKee Dies; Navy's First Female Selected for Flag Officer

By Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) — Rear Admiral Fran McKee, the first female line officer in the Navy to be promoted to flag rank, died March 3, 2002 after suffering a stroke. She was 75.

A native of Florence, Alabama, she was commissioned an ensign on Dec. 4, 1950, and progressed through the ranks to Rear Admiral (lower half) on June 1, 1976, as director of Naval Education Development. She earned a second star as director of Human Resource Management in November 1978, before retiring on June 1, 1981, after 30 years of service.

“It was quite an accomplishment for her to make admiral back then,” said long-time friend and retired Navy Captain Barbara Nyce. “It wasn't as accepted then as it is today. She was a very poised and confident person. She touched a lot of people and had a wonderful zest for life.”

Those who served with her agree.

“Admiral McKee will always live in the hearts of those who knew her, were inspired by her, profited from her leadership and enjoyed the pleasure of her company,” said retired Navy Captain Carolyn Prevatte. “For many of us who came after, Fran McKee was a heroine, trailblazer, woman of dignity and integrity, a role model, and a great individual of warmth and humor to whom we owe a great debt.”

McKee served in a variety of stateside assignments including: instructor at Naval Schools Command; mobilization and  classification officer at Naval Air Reserve Training Command; officer-in-charge, Naval Women Officers School; head, Special
Inquiries and Publications at Bureau of Naval Personnel (BUPERS); and commanding officer of a Naval Security Group  Activity. Outstanding proficiency in these assignments resulted in the Legion of Merit with Gold Star and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Graduating with a degree in chemistry from the University of Alabama in 1950, McKee went on to graduate from Naval Line Officers School, Naval Postgraduate School, Naval War College, and received a master's degree from George Washington University, Washington, D.C., in International Affairs in 1970.

“She was a wonderful woman, so warm, smart and human,” added retired Rear Admiral Louise C. Wilmot. “We have the  fondest memories of her, including her initiation into the Alabama Hall of Fame.”

Funeral services for McKee will be held April 8, at 12:30 p.m. (local) in the chapel of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Annandale, Virginia, followed by a burial service with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery at 3:00 p.m. Immediately following the ceremony, a reception will be held in the Women's Memorial at Arlington.

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