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 joking reference to the fact that Nebraska is landlocked, and therefore has no navy.
The Great Navy of the State of Nebraska was created in 1931. The Lieutenant Governor of Nebraska at that time, Theodore W. Metcalf, 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".
Since the creation of the Great Navy of Nebraska, it is estimated that over 100,000 people have been commissioned as Nebraska admirals.
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 November 2008, Governor Dave Heineman 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
- 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
- Mark Spitz
- Harry S Truman
- Bob Uecker