Rear Admiral Lewis Elliott Coley was born in Alexander City, Ala., in 1899 and moved to Oklahoma City in the summer of 1909, two years following Statehood. He is a graduate of Oklahoma City's Central High School, and, in 1924, the United States Naval Academy.
After various fleet assignments in the 1920s and 1930s, he became commander of a destroyer, positioned in the Philippine Islands in 1940, and following the start of World War II, his ship, along with British, Dutch, Australian and United States vessels became the first U.S.-Joint Operation of the war. This convoy of vessels was engaged in many operations, including the sinking of a Japanese submarine, for which he received a combat decoration. He later was awarded the Navy Cross for his efforts in thwarting the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies.
Following the war, he was engaged in a variety of operations, including the establishment of Naval Reserve units in many Oklahoma cities. He retired from the Navy in 1954 with the rank of Rear Admiral. Following the war he embarked upon a successful campaign to rescue the financially distressed Oklahoma City Symphony. In doing so, he brought such national performers as Jack Benny, Danny Kaye, and many others to Oklahoma to perform with the Symphony.
He received special recognition from the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce for these efforts. However, his symphony efforts were only part of the many civic contributions he performed for Oklahoma City and the State of Oklahoma.