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Merle Smith, 1st Black graduate of Coast Guard Academy, dies

Merle J. Smith Jr., left, is pictured with his father, U.S. Army Col. Merle J. Smith, Sr., and...
Merle J. Smith Jr., left, is pictured with his father, U.S. Army Col. Merle J. Smith, Sr., and Coast Guard Commandant Willard J. Smith at the Academy commencement, 1966. Smith Jr. was the first Black cadet to graduate from the Coast Guard Academy.(Source: U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 12:17 PM CDT
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NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — The first Black cadet to graduate from the Coast Guard Academy, Merle Smith Jr. has died. He was 76.

Smith’s wife says he died on June 16 of complications from Parkinson’s disease and COVID-19.

Smith commanded patrol boats in Vietnam, taught law classes at the academy in New London and retired from active-duty service with the rank of commander before joining the legal staff of submarine builder Electric Boat.

Academy superintendent Rear Adm. William Kelly said in an email to the campus community that Smith “served as a role model for countless cadets, faculty, and staff.”

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