Trailblazer from Milan and first African-American submarine commander mourned
MOLINE, Illinois — A retired Navy Commander and the first African-American to command a U.S. submarine is being mourned.
Captain C.A “Pete” Tzomes of Milan passed away June 13, 2019, in Iowa City. He led a distinguished military career and made history when he assumed command of the U.S.S. Houston in 1993, becoming the first African-American to command a nuclear submarine.
He was one of seven African-American submarine commanders in the first 100 years of the Submarine Force’s history. The group came to be known as the “Centennial 7,” Several members came to Moline to bid him goodbye during visitation hours at Trimble Funeral Home on Thursday.
“It’s always the role model,” said Dr. William Bundy, one of the Centennial 7, who had come from Rhode Island. “When you look at any organization you look to see if there are people like you who are in leadership positions.” But, he added, “The Navy, put Pete in command because he earned it. Itt was not a matter of race, just like all of us.”
Captain Tzomes is survived by his wife Carolyn Eason-Tzomes of 12 years, and a son and granddaughter from his previous marriage.
Services will be held Friday, June 21, at 10:30 a.m. at Second Baptist Church in Rock Island, followed by military honoros at Rock Island National Cemetary. He will be laid to rest at Arlinigton National Cemetary at a later date.