On June 4, 1922, pioneering Navy admiral Samuel Lee Gravely was born in Richmond, Virginia. Gravely began his career in 1942 when he joined the Naval Reserve, enlisting two years before the Navy commissioned its first Black officer. Over his 38-year career, he earned the distinctions of becoming the first African-American to be commissioned as an officer, the first African-American to serve aboard a fighting ship as an officer, the first African-American to command a Navy ship, the first African-American fleet commander and the first African-American to become a flag officer.
In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford appointed Gravely to vice admiral, putting him in charge of the Navy's Third Fleet comprised of 100 warships and 60,000 sailors and marines based at Pearl Harbor. In recognition of his service, Gravely was awarded the Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star, a Meritorious Service Medal and a Navy Commendation Medal.
He died in 2004 at age 82 from complications of a stroke.
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(Photo: U.S. NHHC)