Nebraska Admiral (formally, Admiral in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska) is Nebraska's highest honor, and an honorary title bestowed upon individuals by approval of the Governor of Nebraska, the only triply landlocked U.S. state. It is not a military rank, requires no duties, and carries with it no pay or other compensation. Admirals have the option of joining the Nebraska Admirals Association, a non-profit organization that promotes "The Good Life" of Nebraska.
The award certificate describes the honor in a tongue-in-cheek fashion:
And I [the Governor of Nebraska] do strictly charge and require all officers, seamen, tadpoles and goldfish under your command to be obedient to your orders as Admiral—and you are to observe and follow, from time to time, such directions you shall receive, according to the rules and discipline of the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska.
The use of the title of admiral, instead of some other high-ranking military title, is a humorously ironic reference to the fact that Nebraska has no navy, both because it is landlocked and has no oceans, seas or major lakes to defend, and because, as a U.S. state, it relies on the United States Armed Forces for defense.
The Great Navy of the State of Nebraska was created in 1931. The Lieutenant Governor of Nebraska at that time, Theodore W. Metcalfe, was serving as Acting Governor of Nebraska while Governor Charles W. Bryan was outside the state. At the urging of some of his friends, he appointed "20 to 25 prominent Nebraskans" as Nebraska Admirals.
Commissions in the Nebraska Navy have always been given to prominent citizens both inside and outside of Nebraska. However, anyone can request or be nominated for an admiralship as long as he or she has "contributed in some way to the state, promote the Good Life in Nebraska, and warrant recognition as determined by the Governor".
The Nebraska Admirals Association was established in 1986. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is devoted to a number of causes, including promoting Nebraska products, educational activities, awarding scholarships, promoting tourism, and providing support for ships and sailors in the United States Navy named after Nebraska-related entities.
Current guidelines for Admiralships
As of January 2015, Governor Pete Ricketts requires the following criteria for awarding an Admiralship:
- The nominator or nominee must be a resident of Nebraska.
- Self-nominations will not be honored.
- Those who are nominating persons for Admiralships will need to send the request by U.S. postal mail or present it to the Governor's Office. E-mail requests will not be accepted. All requests must be in writing.
- If the date for the Admiralship is not specifically requested, the received date will be used on the certificate.
- The Governor retains full discretion for any Admiralship requests.
- The Governor's Office requests notice of two to three weeks to process Admiralships.
According to the Nebraska Admiral Association, notable admirals include:
- Gene Autry
- Jack Benny
- George W. Bush
- Johnny Carson
- Dick Cavett
- Bing Crosby
- Sandy Dennis
- Costa Dillon
- Queen Elizabeth II
- Julius "Dr. J" Erving
- Eileen Farrell
- Craig Ferguson
- Gerald Ford
- Stephen Fry
- George Gallup
- Bill Gates
- John Glenn
- Chuck Hagel
- Sir Edmund Hillary
- Bob Hope
- Chuck Jones
- Dorothy Kilgallen
- Martin Luther King III
- Ann Landers
- David Letterman
- Douglas MacArthur
- Bill Murray
- Ben Nelson
- Jack Nicklaus
- Tom Osborne
- Arnold Palmer
- Ronald Reagan
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
- Rusty Shackleford
- Roger Smith
- Mark Spitz
- Harry S. Truman
Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh were both reportedly granted a Nebraska Admiralship. Both Nguema and Jammeh have been criticized for their dictatorial rule over their respective countries, and the reported granting of the admiralship to Jammeh by Governor Dave Heineman even drew the criticism of the state's Democratic Party leader.
- Cooper, Harold. "The Great Nebraska Navy: Its Origin and Growth" (PDF). Nebraska State Historical Society. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
- Famous Admirals, nebraskaadmirals.org
- "Heineman to appear on 'Late Late Show'". Lincoln Journal Star. 2 July 2007. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
- "South Sioux City woman honored as Nebraska "admiral"". Sioux City Journal. 14 June 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
- "Joe E. Lewis". What's My Line?. Episode 275. 11 Sep 1955. Event occurs at 0:48. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
- "Admirals in Great Navy of the State of Nebraska". Lincoln Journal Star. 3 Oct 2010. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
- Goodsell, Paul; Vasquez, Andrea. "Admiral program not so shipshape in Neb". World-Herald News Service (via North Platte Telegraph). BH Media Group, Inc. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
- Goodsell, Paul (2 October 2010). "From the Archives: State unwittingly bestows Nebraska Navy honor on African dictator". Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
- "The world's enduring dictators: Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Equatorial Guinea". CBS News. 19 June 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
In his own time as dictator, Nguema's opponents have accused him of cannibalism, specifically eating parts of his opponents to gain "power." (Those charges have probably done little to help his repeated efforts to have a U.N. science prize named after him.) Most recently, Amnesty International reported that Nguema's henchmen abducted four nationals living in exile in Benin in January 2010, held them in secret detention, tortured them, and then forced them to confess to an alleged coup attempt, all before executing them in August following a kangaroo court military trial.
- Reid, Stuart A. (8 February 2016). "The Dictators Who Love America". The Atlantic. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
In the two decades since, as the rest of West Africa has grown more democratic and developed, [Yahya] Jammeh has taken his country in the opposite direction, routinely harassing and detaining political activists.
- Ross, Timberly (3 October 2010). "Head of state Dems critical of Jammeh admiralship". Lincoln Journal Star. The Associated Press. Retrieved 21 January 2017.