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Reason, J. Paul(1941–) - Military leader, Background, Upbringing, and Education, Chronology, Becomes Successful Entrepreneur

naval university academy joseph

In 1996, J. Paul Reason’s outstanding naval career peaked when he became the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet in the United States Navy. He concentrated on using computers and technology to update ships and enhancing his sailors’ and staff’s quality of life. His success was based in part on pursing excellence with honesty and integrity, and having a supportive family, especially his parents and his wife Dianne. He was always striving to learn more, and willingly helping others as he progressed. He also credits those pioneering African Americans whose accomplishments paved the way for his success and those individuals, such as ADM Hyman Rickover and Chief of Naval Operations Mike Boorda, who gave him opportunities to excel.

Reason urges America’s youth to seek an education because having knowledge provides increased opportunities and life can be much more difficult without it. He also explains to them the importance of having a confident and positive attitude and a reputation as a good performer who has values. He works with minority recruiting programs at the Naval Academy and presents military service as an outstanding career option because promotion is based on job performance and test scores and how they rank you among your peers. Reason believes that one should not walk through obstacles but find a means of working around them.

Background, Upbringing, and Education

Joseph Paul was born to Joseph and Bernice Reason on March 22, 1941, in the nation’s capital. He had a sister Barbara who succumbed to multiple sclerosis at the age of 50 after a career as an analyst and writer in international studies. With a doctoral degree in the romantic languages, his father taught at various schools including Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, Florida where he met fellow faculty member Bernice. After they were married, she taught in the District of Columbia school system, while he worked as the director of libraries at Howard University. Joseph Paul’s middle class upbringing in the Brookland section of northeast Washington emphasized intellectual development, education, and being culturally well rounded. Seeing ships on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and his fascination with how they operated influenced his decision to consider joining the Navy. He also enjoyed playing sports and the Boy Scouts, shared with life long friend Fred Gregory, who became the first black space pilot.

Reason attended Benjamin Banneker Junior High School and McKinley High School where he applied for the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC), a military sponsored college program. His application, he later learned, was denied even though he scored the third highest exam score out of three hundred persons. The southern ROTC officials reviewing applications did not believe that an African American would be accepted at the southern schools. He attended Swarthmore College, Lincoln University, and Howard University studying mathematics and engineering prior to attending the Naval Academy. Democratic Congressman Charles Diggs of Michigan discussed the low number of black midshipmen at the military service academies with a dean at Howard University who recommended Joseph Paul Reason for an appointment.

Reason was over six feet tall, older, and more educated than the average first-year student and one of four blacks in the class of 1965. Like him, many of the persons he studied with went on to have tremendous success and to become his lifelong friends, such as former Secretary of the Navy John Dalton; Floyd Grayson, who started Grayson Homes of Ellicott City; Pete Tzomes, the first black officer to command a nuclear submarine; and Stanley Carter, a professor of naval science at Florida State University. While Reason admits that racism prevailed at the Academy, he prefers to focus on those individuals who helped him succeed. His extracurricular activities included the public relations club which involved announcing sporting events, the antiphonal choir, and intramural volleyball and field ball.

Three days after graduating from the Naval Academy, he married Dianne Fowler whom he had known since childhood, at the Academy chapel. He became a father with the birth of his daughter Rebecca in 1967. His wife had some familiarity with the military lifestyle as her father was a retired Army colonel and a professor of military science at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. Their son, Joseph was born April 22, 1968.



Born in Washington, D.C. on March 22


Enters U.S. Naval Academy


Graduates USNA; commissioned an ensign; marries Dianne Fowler


Earns M.S. at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California


Begins service as Naval Aide to the president of the United States


Becomes commanding officer of USS Coontz


Becomes rear admiral as commander, naval base, Seattle


Advances to four-star admiral as Atlantic fleet commander


Retires from naval service


Serves as corporate executive; director on several corporate boards

Becomes Successful Entrepreneur

After he retired, corporate America recruited Reason because of his exemplary leadership and management skills. In addition to consultant work and sitting on corporate boards such as Wal-Mart Stores Incorporated, he served as vice president for Ship Systems at Syntek Technologies, Inc., a technical and engineering services firm in Arlington, Virginia and the president and chief operating officer of the Metro Machine Corporation, an employee-owned ship repair and conversion business in Norfolk, Virginia, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Reason also served as the director of Amgen Inc. and Norfolk Southern Corporation. He also presents at the Naval Academy’s Admissions Outreach conferences.

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