Joe Cephus Mitchell – Captain, United States Navy

Written by Mike Mitchell, Joe’s son, 2001.

Captain Joe Cephus Mitchell, United States Navy, was born 31 May 1926 in Fowlestown Georgia near Bainbridge, of Mary Emma King-Mitchell and Claude Mitchell. He had three sisters, Betty Jean Mitchell, RN, Gloria Ann Shepard, and Edna Clyde Nix and a brother, Claude Buren Mitchell.

He attended Attapulgus High School where he lettered in Basketball and quarterbacked for the football team. After school he worked in the tobacco fields and had a paper route for the weekly paper ‘the Grit’.  He bought his first bicycle “from raising a calf given to me by my father.”

On graduation day at the age of 17, he left for the Navy.

1945:  Joe’s first assignment was the Naval Auxiliary Air Station and then Radar School at St. Simons Island, Georgia. After serving two (2) years in the Navy during World War II, he was released as a Yeoman Second Class to attend the University of Georgia.

1947 – 1950:  At the University of Georgia, he worked in the library and was an active Navy Reservist.  He was Recording Secretary and President of the Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity, a member of the Alpha Kappa Psi Fraternity, and a member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity. He belonged to the Woodmen of the World and was a charter member and Vice President of the Masonic Wayfarers club. He graduated in 1950 and was recommended for a commission in the Navy.  Until he received his commission he worked in the supply department of the Clay Company, an oil refining company.

1950:  Now commissioned in the Navy, he was recalled to active duty in June 1950. In July of 1950 he was stationed in Japan and in August 19, 1950 received his commission as an Ensign.  In Japan he met and married his wife, Lieutenant (jg) Jean Flood, RN., United States Navy, in 1952.

1955:  They were transferred to the Philippines in 1955 where he served approximately two (2) years on temporary additional duty to Taiwan, a U.S. Submarine and was stationed aboard three (3) aircraft carriers with Commander Task Force 77 (CTF-77).  And, in 1957, they had a son, Michael Joseph.

1957:  In 1957 they were transferred to Washington D.C. with the National Security Agency.  In 1958, they had a daughter, Karen Elizabeth

1959:  In August 1959 they transferred to Washington, D.C. with the rank of Lieutenant (jg) and served 18 months. During the next 18 months he received his regular Naval Commission and learned Chinese at the Intelligence School, Language Branch. In 1960, they had a daughter, Cheryl Ann.

1960:  In 1960 to 1962, the family went to Prot Lyautay, Morocco, during the time of the death of King Mohammad the Fifth. He provided communication from the palace grounds to the ship while King Hussan was enroute to America.

1963:  From 1963 to 1965 he was assigned to the USS Jamestown AGTR-3 as Operations Officer and Public Relations Officer. During this time he went around the world twice.  In 1963, they had daughter, Patricia Ann and in 1964, they had daughter, Sandra Diane in Bethesda Maryland.

1965:  From 1965 to 1967, as a Lieutenant Commander, he served at the National Security Agency in Washington, D.C. In 1966, they had daughter, Nannette Lynn.

1969:  From 1969 to 1973 they were at Headquarters, Atlantic Fleet, Norfolk Virginia, and then served with the staff of the Commander in Chief, Atlantic from 1967-1970 as a Commander.

1973:  In 1973, he was promoted to the rank of Captain before being transferred to Adak, Alaska, Naval Communication Station as the Commanding Officer.

1975:  From 1975 thru 1977 he served in Washington D.C. with Commander Naval Security Group Headquarters as the Assistant Commander for Administration, Personnel and Security. Then as Commanding Officer of NAVSECGRU, Homestead Air Force Base.

1977:  From 1977 to 1980 he served as the Commanding Officer of the Naval Security Station in Washington, D.C.

While in the Navy, he earned the Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Services Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, China Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Victory Medal for World War II, the World War II Occupation Medal, the Navy, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, Expert Pistol Medal, and the United Nations Korean Medal.

During his Naval career a great deal of time was spent assisting the local residents in the many countries from relief items, including food, to delivering much needed medical supplies to the interior jungle of Brazil and other parts of South America.

Upon retirement in June of 1982 with the rank of Captain, after 38 years with the Navy, he and his family moved and settled in Homestead, Florida.  In August of 1982, thru the persuasion of the many friends he had made in the Homestead area, he accepted the position of Manager of the Florida City State Farmers’ Market. He was named “Marketing Manager of the Year” in May of 1989.  He also owned and operated a 10 acre avocado grove.

He served on the Board of Directors, the Red Carpet Committee and the Vice President of Tourism of the Greater Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce, Assistant Secretary of the Homestead Rodeo Association, a member of the Military Affairs Committee, the President Elect of the local Rotary Club, a member of the Agri-Council, on the Advisory board of the Sunrise School for the Retarded, founding member of the local Soup Kitchen, Secretary/Treasurer of the Board of Directors of the NAPMM (National Association of Produce Market Managers), the Vice Chairman of the Florida Job Service Employment Committee, a Board Member of the Florida Senior Games of the Governor’s Council of Fitness and Sports, a past member and on the Board of Directors of the Private Industry Council for seven (7) years, on the local board of the United Way and Chairman of the Dade County Federal Emergency Food and Shelter Assistance Program (FEMA funds).  He was a member of the American Legion post #400 Homestead, Florida, and the Naval Cryptologic Veterans Association.

On August 24, 1992 he saw the effects of Hurricane Andrew with major damage of his personal home and the total destruction of the grove house and destruction of two of his children’s homes. Major damage was also done to the Farmers Market and Rodeo Grounds.

Joe died at home at age 67 of a sudden heart attack on 4 October 1993.  He enjoyed boating and fishing. He was married 40 years and is survived by his wife Jean, one son, Michael Joseph, and 5 daughters, Karen Elizabeth, Cheryl Ann, Patricia, Sandra Dianne, and Nannette Lynn Mitchell. Grandchildren include Jamie & Ashley McLane, Austin Zarling and Cody Arnette.

He was interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery (Section 8, Corner of Eisenhower and Patton Drive).

Captain Mitchell's beloved wife of 40 years, Dessie Jean Mitchell, Lieutenant (jg), United States Navy, died on 7 January 2008 and was laid to rest with him.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 05/31/1926
  • DATE OF DEATH: 10/04/1993

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