Samuel Gravely, First African American Admiral In The U.S. Navy

Samuel Gravely entered the United States Navy during WWII as a fireman apprentice at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, in 1942. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, in 1944, Gravely was commissioned as an Ensign and served on the USS PC-1264. After the war, he went back to civilian life briefly, but in 1949, he was called back to serve as a recruiter in the newly desegregated U.S. Navy. He would remain on active duty for a total of 38 years.

During the Korean War, Gravely served on board the battleship USS Iowa (BB-61). Later in that decade, he served on the USS Toledo (CA-133), a Baltimore-class heavy cruiser, and the USS Seminole (AKA-104), a Tolland-class cargo ship.

Photo: YouTube/U.S. Navy

In 1960, Gravely would become the first African American to serve as an executive officer on a U.S. Navy warship, a destroyer, the USS Theodore E. Chandler (DD-717). On January 31 of the following year, he was made commander of the USS Falgout (DD-324), becoming the first African American to hold that leadership role in U.S. Navy history.

He would later be called upon to help integration efforts at the Naval War College and served on the Defense Communications Agency. He would once again become a destroyer commander on the USS Taussig (DD-746). He would also serve as coordinator of the Navy’s satellite communications program.

Photo: YouTube/U.S. Navy

In 1971, he took command of yet another destroyer, the USS Jouett (DLG-29), and, during this time, he was selected for flag rank, becoming the first African American to achieve the rank of Rear Admiral. His flag commands included The Naval Communications Command, Cruiser-Destroyer Group Two, the Eleventh Naval District, and, finally, the entire Third Fleet. Later, he would be again promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral.

During Gravely’s 38-year-long and distinguished career in the United States Navy as a surface warfare officer, he was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, and the Navy Commendation Medal.

Photo: YouTube/U.S. Navy

There is a guided-missile destroyer named after Vice Admiral Gravely in the fleet today: the USS Gravely (DDG-107). You will see an interview with Gravely’s widow at the end of this video where she talks about the USS Gravely and how her husband would have felt about having a ship named after him.

Photo: YouTube/U.S. Navy

With intimate knowledge of her husband and with a fine sense of humor, she tells the interviewer that he would be proud of it. But he would be especially proud of the fact that the ship named for him was a destroyer. He wouldn’t have liked it if it was a bigger ship, or a smaller one. “He loved destroyers.”

The Veterans Site honors the memory of Vice-Admiral Samuel Gravely. He served with great distinction and made a real difference in helping to integrate and strengthen the modern United States Navy. Honor, respect, and our sincere thanks to him for a job well done.

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