The first Black director of the Defense Intelligence Agency died April 28 in Aldie, Virginia. He was 64.
Retired Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, who also became the first Marine Corps officer to helm the DIA, “passed away peacefully in his sleep,” according to an obituary from the Colonial Funeral Home of Leesburg.
“I join many others in mourning the sudden loss of Vince Stewart,” Commandant of the Marine Corps General David H. Berger said in a service release May 1. “He was a trailblazer, a selfless leader, and a mentor and dear personal friend to me. His impact as a leader of Marines and the broader intelligence community cannot be understated. Words cannot express how much he will be missed.”
A Jamaican immigrant who came to the United States as a child, Stewart commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1981, serving almost 40 years at nearly all levels of command. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from Western Illinois University and later earned graduate degrees from the Naval War College and the National Defense University.
The trailblazing Marine’s first leadership role was as a tank platoon commander in Alpha Company, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division in 1982.
As head of the Defense Intelligence Agency from January 2015 to October 2017, Stewart served as one of the nation’s top military intelligence officers. He provided key advice to U.S. leadership on global and national security issues, including Russia’s involvement in Syria, North Korea’s nuclear program and advancements made by the Islamic State, among many other items.
Stewart completed his active duty service as the deputy commander of United States Cyber Command. He retired in 2019.
In the obituary posting on the funeral home’s website, colleagues of Stewart shared how he shaped their lives and the lives of others.
“Vince truly inspired excellence. He truly inspired organizations. But mostly, he inspired people. Vince’s story alone was an inspiration,” wrote retired Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, who previously commanded the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and served as deputy chief of computer network operations for the National Security Agency.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide protests against police brutality, Stewart penned a passionate op-ed for Task & Purpose, speaking out against racial injustice.
“By all accounts, I have truly lived the American dream. I am a first generation American who rose to the top of my profession — a living embodiment of the ideal that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything. Yet hard work is not enough for many of my fellow [B]lack Americans, who run into institutional barriers, and all too often face deep-seated fear, contempt, resentment, and hatred,” he wrote.
In a farewell video from the military intel agency, posted at the end of Stewart’s tenure, the highly decorated Marine implored others to further the American dream that made his successes possible.
“Lift someone up. Elevate one coworker, help one individual. Make the dream real. Encourage someone, mentor someone, guide someone. And do it for someone who doesn’t look like you.”
Stewart is survived by his wife, five children, 15 grandchildren as well as several sisters and brothers, the obituary shared.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media