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 humorously ironic reference to the fact that Nebraska has no navy, both because it is landlocked and has no oceans, seas or major lakes to defend, and because it relies on the United States Armed Forces for defense and has had no active state defense force since 1972.
The Great Navy of the State of Nebraska was created in 1931. The Lieutenant Governor of Nebraska at that time, Theodore W. Metcalfe, 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".
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.
As of January 2015, Governor Pete Ricketts requires the following criteria for awarding an Admiralship:
According to the Nebraska Admiral Association, notable admirals include:
Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh were both reportedly granted a Nebraska Admiralship. Both Nguema and Jammeh have been criticized for their dictatorial rule over their respective countries, and the reported granting of the admiralship to Jammeh by Governor Dave Heineman drew the criticism of the state's Democratic Party leader.
Governor Pete Ricketts revoked admiralship from two women, Amanda Gailey and Courtney Lawton, in January 2018, less than a month after the award. The honor was revoked, according to the governor's spokesman, because the two had protested the appearance of Turning Point USA, a conservative group that maintains a Professor Watchlist, on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The governor's office had no enforcement power to retrieve the certificates presented to Gailey and Lawton.
In his own time as dictator, Nguema's opponents have accused him of cannibalism, specifically eating parts of his opponents to gain "power." (Those charges have probably done little to help his repeated efforts to have a U.N. science prize named after him.) Most recently, Amnesty International reported that Nguema's henchmen abducted four nationals living in exile in Benin in January 2010, held them in secret detention, tortured them, and then forced them to confess to an alleged coup attempt, all before executing them in August following a kangaroo court military trial.
In the two decades since, as the rest of West Africa has grown more democratic and developed, [Yahya] Jammeh has taken his country in the opposite direction, routinely harassing and detaining political activists.