ZEB DICKEY ALFORD
1925 MS – 2009 TX
Photo from Together
Photo from the Houston Chronicle
Geo. H. Lewis & Sons Funeral
Directors, Houston, TX
identical article was published in the Houston Chronicle from August 9 to August 16, but the
online version cut off the last 6 paragraphs.]
GALVESTON COUNTY DAILY NEWS
Galveston, Galveston Co., TX—Monday, 17 August 2009
Zeb Dickey Alford, retired U.S. Navy Captain,
84, passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday the 4th of August 2009, the eve of his
25th wedding anniversary. Zeb suffered a heart attack the previous evening
while playing tennis at his home causing him to fall back hard on his head.
Zeb was born in McComb, Mississippi, on the 18th
of March 1925, to James and Doris Alford. His two younger brothers James
Burton, Jr., and Van Henry both pre deceased him. He leaves his second wife and
soul mate Joan Chasan Alford of Houston and Syosset, New York, whom he married
in 1984. He also leaves four daughters by his first wife Margaret Lewis of
Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Birmingham, Alabama: Patti, Peggy, Jane and Katie;
and two grandchildren Samantha and Lane. Other immediate survivors include Joan’s
mother Rosalind; brother Bruce and wife Gail; sister Diana; and their children.
The U.S. Navy was Zeb’s great passion in life
from grade school days. He made many contributions to the Navy during his
thirty-year career and post retirement activities. His many speeches on
military strategy and geopolitics to Navy, civic, Rotary, Memorial and other
groups ranged from the “History of the U.S. Navy’s Birthday” through “Submarines:
from Containment to Preemption.” He often quoted Admiral Nimitz’s words in 1945
that, “The submarine will become the capital ship of the Navy.” He served on
six capital ships of the U.S. Navy.
The day after graduating from McComb High School
in January 1943, Zeb joined the Navy. He attended LSU for one semester, and
then he started his Navy career as a seaman apprentice in the V-12 program at
Tulane University on the 1st of July 1943. He entered the Naval Academy in
Zeb graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in
1947 and served two years aboard USS CHARLES R. WARE, an Atlantic Fleet
The rest of Zeb’s twenty-six years as an officer
in the Navy was spent building and operating submarines during the “Cold War,”
a war the US won Zeb liked to point out, without a shot being fired. Zeb served
on three diesel subs, and then three nuclear subs. Zeb was captain of two
Upon graduation from Submarine School in 1949,
he served aboard the diesel submarines: USS CUTLASS, USS CHARR and USS CAVALLA.
Zeb’s activities aboard CAVALLA involved interactions with carrier groups and
large sonar arrays. In 1957 Zeb attended the Navy Postgraduate School in
Monterey, California, where he received his MS in Operations Analysis. Next he
received the prestigious honor of being selected for the Nuclear Power Program
under Admiral Rickover in 1958. He was assigned as Executive Officer [XO] of
the nuclear submarine USS TULLIBEE.
Zeb’s work aboard TULLIBEE with his very good
friend and sonar officer David Hinkle, has affected the sonar systems of
submarines to this day, including the USS TEXAS commissioned in Galveston a few
After serving on Admiral Rickover’s staff Zeb
was assigned in 1962 as the Commanding Officer of the nuclear submarine USS SHARK.
The SHARK set a speed record for a North Atlantic crossing during the 1963
Cuban Missile Crisis that still stands.
After commanding SHARK for two years Zeb was
ordered to the submarine section of the staff of the CNO (Chief of Naval
Operations.) His major duties included the loss of USS THRESHER investigation
for CNO/Secretary of the Navy and the resulting reports to Congress, which led
to the Sub-Safe Program.
In 1965 Zeb was assigned as Commanding Officer
of the Polaris nuclear submarine USS SAM HOUSTON. In 1968 Zeb was ordered to
the staff of Secretary of the Navy where he served in the Office of Program
Appraisal before becoming Executive Assistant to the Undersecretary of the Navy
(now Sen. John Warner) in 1969. After attending the National War College in
1970-1971 he was assigned as Commanding Officer, Guantanamo Bay Naval Station,
Cuba in 1971. Zeb retired from the navy in September 1973 with the rank of
Zeb’s medals, awarded by the Navy include:
Meritorious Service Medal (2), Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Expeditionary
Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, W.W.II Victory
Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal (with
Bronze Star), Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Expert Pistol
Shot Medal (with Bronze E), and Cold War Recognition Certificate.
Zeb’s second career started in energy in 1973
with New England Electric System (NEES.) He was soon appointed Manager of Fuel
Supply and then President of NEES’s new oil and gas subsidiary when he had the
oil embargo crisis of 1973 to contend with. Besides joint ventures with various
exploration companies, NEES also built a coal-fired coal ship, the only such
ship known to be in the US.
In 1985 Zeb started a new company, Dolphin
Energy, Inc. in Houston, Texas, that marketed natural gas to major utilities on
both coasts. His wife Joan, a stock broker and financial advisor, helped him as
Treasurer and CFO of Dolphin Energy, Inc.
Zeb had a labor of love in the restoration of
the World War II submarine USS CAVALLA, now in Galveston in Seawolf Park on
Pelican Island. He had served on this submarine for two years during the Cold
War era and rose to the position of XO. This submarine had the marked
distinction of having sunk one of the Japanese fleet aircraft carriers, the
Shokaku, that had attacked the U.S. at Pearl Harbor. In its post W.W.II era,
the CAVALLA became a “submarine killer.”
In 1998 Zeb was asked to head a “SAVE THE
CAVALLA” steering committee and then, in mid-1999, became chairman of the
CAVALLA HISTORICAL FOUNDATION [CHF] a restoration committee dedicated to
bringing the submarine back to life. Zeb raised large sums of private money
from many generous Houston donors and received a great deal of hard work and devotion
from organizations such as the Submarine Veterans of W.W.II, the U.S. Submarine
Veterans, Inc., post-W.W.II submariners and many others. Zeb served as Chairman
of the CHF’s Board from 1999 through 2004, and as Chairman Emeritus and Board
Member since then. He loved giving guided tours of the boat he had served on
and was happy to have found an excellent curator, John McMichael. The CHF is
restoring a W.W.II era destroyer escort, USS STEWART, also located at Seawolf
Captain Zeb’s legacy and vision of a memorial to
all the submariners, sailors and servicemen lost during their service to our
country is a major mission of the CAVALLA HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION.
Zeb also served on the Commissioning Committee
for the “latest, greatest” nuclear submarine USS TEXAS (SSN 775.) This ship was
commissioned in Galveston on September 9, 2006.
On the very day Zeb started his journey on
eternal patrol, he had just returned from the Change of Command ceremony for
the USS TEXAS held the 31st of July 2009, in Groton, Connecticut, and Newport,
Rhode Island. At the Change of Command ceremony he had hoped to visit with his
old friend and classmate Dave Hinkle (founder of Sonalysts), with whom he had
served on USS CAVALLA, but he arrived too late. Zeb was asked to give the
eulogy at his funeral and gave a very moving tribute to his friend.
Zeb was an active member of several Navy
organizations such as the Naval Submarine League, the Navy League of the U.S.,
the Naval Academy Alumni Association, the Naval Order of the U.S., The National
War College Alumni Association, the Republican Party and Senior Olympics
(tennis.) He also organized a regular meeting group of tennis players who
played two courts of tennis at Ethan’s Glen (where he lived) every Monday
evening for over twenty years. Everyone in these organizations and others will
miss Zeb’s happy smile, good nature, optimistic outlook, and most of all,
endless sea stories!
Zeb was also active in the Republican Party and
on the board of his town home community. He served as Presidential elector in
the 1996 Presidential election and as an election judge in the 2008
Presidential election as well as a delegate to all state and other conventions
since 1966. He was an honorary member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas.
Friends are cordially invited to a visitation
with the family from five o’clock in the afternoon until eight o’clock in the
evening on Thursday the 20th of August 2009, at Geo. H. Lewis & Sons at
1010 Bering Drive in Houston.
A memorial service will be conducted at ten o’clock
in the morning on Friday the 21st of August 2009, in the Sanctuary of Second
Baptist Church at 6400 Woodway Drive in Houston, where Rev. Biff Johnson is to
In lieu of the usual remembrances, the family
requests with gratitude, that memorial contributions in Zeb’s name be directed
to the Cavalla Historical Foundation, 2504 Church Street, Galveston, TX, 77550
and to the March of Dimes, 3000 Weslayan, Suite 100, Houston, TX, 77027.
“Be strong and courageous. Be not afraid;
neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou
goest.” [Joshua 1:9]
Arrangements are under the direction of Geo. H.
Lewis & Sons Funeral Directors, 1010 Bering Drive, Houston, TX 77057 (713)
“The Web’s #1 Sub Simulation Resource”
Zeb was born in McComb, Mississippi, in 1925.
After graduating from McComb High School in January 1943, he joined the Navy
the next day and attended LSU for one semester. He started his Navy career as a
seaman apprentice in the V-12 program at Tulane University on July1, 1943, and
entered the Naval Academy in 1944.
After graduation in l947, he served as an Ensign
aboard USS Charles R. Ware, an Atlantic Fleet destroyer. After graduation from
Submarine School in 1949, he served aboard three diesel submarines and three
Zeb joined the nuclear Navy in 1958 when
selected by Admiral Rickover, the father of the nuclear Navy. After nuclear
school, his first nuclear assignment, as Executive Officer, was building and
commissioning a new nuclear prototype in Connecticut. He was Executive Officer
and commissioned the first nuclear submarine designed to find and kill other
nuclear submarines, USS Tullibee. Every new class of nuclear attack submarines
built since then has included updated versions of the active and passive sonar
systems and the sound quieting methods of Tullibee. He attended Charm School
(Admiral Rickover’s staff) for six months; then, as a Lieutenant Commander,
here reported in 1962 as Commanding Officer of the nuclear attack submarine USS
Shark. Shark was the first class of single screw, whale-shaped, high-speed,
nuclear submarines. She was the fastest submarine ever built at that time.
As a Navy Commander in 1965, he became the
Commanding Officer of the Polaris nuclear submarine USS Sam Houston. He became
Executive Assistant to the Undersecretary of the Navy (now Senator John Warner [R-Va.]).
Zeb attended the National War College in 1970-71
and reported as Commanding Officer, Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba, in
Zeb retired from the Navy in September 1973. Zeb’s
second career has been in energy. Since entering this field he has become
President of three different energy companies. In 1984 Zeb married Joan Chasan
of Houston, Texas, and Long Island, New York. He has four grown daughters from
a previous marriage.
In 1985 he started a new company, Dolphin
Energy, Inc., and began to market natural gas to major utilities on both
Zeb was active in tennis, the Navy League, the
Naval Academy Alumni Association, the Naval Order, and the Republican Party. He
was elected a delegate to the state party conventions in 1996, 2000, and 2004.
He was elected a member of the Texas Electoral College that met in Austin,
Texas, in December1996.
In 1999 Zeb became Chairman of the Cavalla
Historical Foundation, which raised money to restore the WWII submarine USS
Cavalla (SSK 244) and the DE-238 USS Stewart, both located at Seawolf Park,
Galveston Bay, Texas. Today they both have been restored and are open to the
public for visits.
Tuesday evening, Aug 4, Capt. Zeb passed away
after he suffered a heart attack Sunday evening and hitting his head on the
Zeb had just returned from attending the Change
of Command of the USS TEXAS and delivering the eulogy at Dave Hinkle’s
(Sonalysts founder) funeral. Zeb and Dave had served together on Cavalla SSK.
Zeb also served as aid to Warner and Lehman. He remained an active and cheerful
individual, frequently speaking about Submarines, keeping up to date on
Submarine technology and when he spoke, he always pointed out that the true
Capital Ship of the U.S. Navy was the submarine, not some target.
from Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington Co., VA—www.findagrave.com
granted by the photographer, Brian Alcorn
AAFA NOTES: SSDI
records confirm the birth and death dates of Zeb Dickey Alford (SS# issued in
MS), last residence Houston, Harris Co., TX.
We included the obituaries of his first wife,
Margaret Clark Lewis Alford, in New Mexico Obituaries; his mother, Doris Dickey
Alford, in Mississippi Obituaries; and his brother Van Henry Alford in
We published “Getting to Know Zeb Dickey
Alford“ in the Spring 2000 issue of AAFA ACTION. It includes a
biography that was written in 1996, a newspaper article from the Houston
Chronicle, 21 July 1999, and several photos.
Zeb and his wife Joan attended AAFA’s annual
meetings in Houston, 1989, and in San Antonio, 1999. He joined AAFA in April 1990
and gave each of his four daughters a gift membership.
See AAFA’s published genealogy Seaborn John
Alford 1807 LA for more information on this family.
His lineage: Zeb Dickey 1925 MS1, James Burton 1895 MS2, James Barney 1878 MS3, Barnabas Seaborn 1845 MS4, Seaborn John 1807 LA5, Jacob 1761 NC6,
Julius 1717 VA7, James 1687 VA8, John 1645 VA9.