Charting the course for others to follow
For NOAA’s 50th anniversary, we are interviewing NOAA Legends: people of color who were “firsts” in NOAA science. Our history is rich with unique stories and experiences of staff from all kinds of cultures and backgrounds - some shared, some very distinct, and many of these stories stretch back before NOAA’s creation. These interviews help us tell the stories behind the motivations, challenges and defining moments these unsung heroes experienced to support NOAA’s mission.
Rear Admiral Evelyn Fields (ret.) began her career with NOAA in 1972 as a cartographer at NOAA’s Atlantic Marine Center in Norfolk, Virginia, where she worked on nautical charting surveys. When the NOAA Corps began recruiting women as commissioned officers, Fields became the first African American female to join. By 1989, she was the first woman to command a NOAA ship. In 1999, she reached the rank of rear admiral and took the helm as NOAA Corps Director.