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Dr. William F. Bundy was the first African American to rise from enlisted rank to command a U.S. submarine.
Dr. William F. Bundy was the first African American to rise from enlisted rank to command a U.S. submarine. (HANDOUT)

William F. Bundy, a retired Navy officer who was born in Baltimore’s McCulloh Homes and who was the first African American to go from enlisted status to command a submarine, died of a heart attack Dec. 15 at Rhode Island Hospital. He was 73 and lived in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Raised in public housing in West Baltimore, he was the son of William Cox Bundy, who owned a Pennsylvania Avenue parking lot, and his wife, Paulyne Johnson, a caterer. He attended Booker T. Washington Junior High School. As a teen he played in a school marching band and he marched in parades at Patterson Park.

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“My brother was a great whistler and you could hear from a block away,” said his sister, Veda Bundy Moore.

He was a 1964 graduate of Baltimore City College, where he played lacrosse and football. Family members said he was among the first black students to play lacrosse at the school.

“The opportunity of going to City College made a huge change in his life, as did his going into the Navy,” said his daughter-in-law, Kara Bundy. “He was a proud City College graduate and attended his class reunions.”

His son, William Bundy, said: “Someone must have mentored him to go to City College. It ultimately made all the difference to his life and career."

His younger brother, Leslie Bundy, recalled: “We called him Chip or Chipper, and he was always a leadership type who commanded respect. The kids who lived in houses on the periphery of the McCulloh Homes thought they were superior to us, who lived in the projects. We had a football team and challenged them. My brother led our kids to victory.”

His brother also said: “There were racial incidents. One day we were standing on a bus stop and the white kids on a passing bus spit at us through the windows and called out racial slurs. My brother outran the bus by two stops and let them have it."

He joined the Navy-sponsored Sea Cadets while a City College student and later enlisted.

“I remember the day he left. The Navy sent a car to Madison Avenue to pick him up. He didn’t have to go to the Custom House like others did," his brother said.

He served on seven submarines, including the Lafayette and Richard B. Russell, during the Cold War. He was executive officer of the USS Blueback and the commanding officer of USS Barbell.

He was also a lifelong learner. He received an associate’s degree from Leeward Community College in 1970 and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawaii in 1973. He later earned a master’s degree at the Navy War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and a doctorate from Salve Regina University in 2005.

He served in the Navy for more 30 years and rose to rank of chief sonar technician (submarines) and then was commissioned and became a commander. Before his retirement, he was director of the Naval Officer Candidate School, then located in Newport.

“My father was a mentor to all. He meant so much to all officers,” said his son, a Bethesda resident.

He later became an associate provost at the Naval War College, where he focused on technology integration.

Dr. Bundy was a member of the Centennial Seven — one of the first seven African Americans to command a submarine in the first 100 years of U.S. submarine history. He was the third African American and the first to rise through the ranks as an enlisted man and go on to command a submarine.

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While in the Navy, Commander Bundy earned two Defense Meritorious Service awards.

He was recognized as the 1993 Black Engineer of the Year for Outstanding Achievement in Government and the U.S. Navy League’s Dalton L. Baugh award for “inspirational leadership” in recognition of his professional accomplishments during his service in the Navy.

In 1995 he was named director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. He led a computerization effort and created a state Transportation Operations Center and a freight rail project at the Quonset Point port facility.

After leaving the Rhode Island transportation job, he joined FleetBoston Financial Executive. He then joined the faculty of the Naval War College, where he served as the chair of the Warfare Analysis and Research Department.

Dr. Bundy was also an adjunct professor and lecturer at Providence College, where he taught leadership, business organization and ethics courses. He also taught at Salve Regina.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 141 State St. in Bristol. A burial will follow with full military honors.

In addition to his son, brother and sister, survivors include his wife of nearly 41 years, Jeanne Pacheco, a beautician; another son, Raymond Bundy of Boston; a daughter, Andrena Seawood of Minneapolis; and three grandchildren.

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