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Vice Admiral Samuel Gravely, Jr. 

photo of the USS Gravely named after African American Admiral Samuel Gravely Jr.At the peak of his career, Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely, Jr. was the highest-ranking African American officer in the U.S. Navy, a three-star vice admiral. Even after his retirement, he maintained the commanding presence that he had honed during his 38 years in the military. Throughout his long career, Gravely's many decorations, honors, and awards attest to his success.

Among those accomplishments, are a string of impressive "firsts" that include: the first African American to command a U.S. Navy warship ( USS Theodore E. Chandler); the first African American to command an American warship under combat conditions since the Civil War (USS Taussig during the Vietnam War): the first African American to command a major naval warship (USS Jouett); the first African American admiral; the first African American to rise to the rank of Vice Admiral; and the first African American to command a U.S. Fleet (Commander, Third Fleet), and he recently became the first African American to have a navy ship named in his honor.

The brand new $1 Billion dollar Gravely Destroyer has been named after the African-American legend. The ship’s motto “First to Conquer” is a reference to Samuel Gravely paving the way for blacks in the Navy. The USS Gravely (DDG-107) is an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer in the United States Navy. Gravely is the 57th destroyer in her class. She was authorized on  September 13th 2002 and her keel was laid down on November 26th 2007 at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding's Ingalls Shipbuilding shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Gravely was launched on March 30th 2009, and successfully completed her sea trial in June 2010.

Gravely is the 57th destroyer in her class. She was authorized on 13 September 2002 and her keel was laid down on 26 November 2007 at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding's Ingalls Shipbuilding shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Gravely was launched on 30 March 2009. She successfully completed sea trial in June 2010. The USS Gravely was commissioned at Wilmington, North Carolina on  November 20, 2010 under the command of Commander Douglas Kunzman.

Born in 1922 in Richmond, Virginia, Gravely came from a family committed to government service. His father, Samuel L. Gravely Sr., was a postal worker, and his siblings worked at various government posts with the Veterans Administration and the Internal Revenue Service. After a short stint at the post office himself, Gravely responded to the call to arms issued during the Second World War and joined the U.S. Navy.

Gravely spent two years at Virginia Union University, where he was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans. Following his time in college, he enlisted in the Naval Reserves on September 15, 1942 and was trained as a Fireman Apprentice. In 1943, he participated in the Navy V-12 program, which was designed to select and train Naval officers. As part of this training, he attended the University of California in Los Angeles, Pre-Midshipman School in New Jersey, and Midshipmen School at Columbia University. On December 14, 1944, Gravely successfully completed midshipman training, thereby becoming the first African American commissioned as an officer from the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps.

As a newly commissioned Ensign, Samuel Gravely's first duty assignment was at Camp Robert Smalls as the Assistant Battalion Commander for new recruits.  Following that, he began his seagoing career as a sailor aboard the PC 1264, a submarine chaser that was one of only two W.W.II ships with a largely African American crew.

Admiral Samuel gravely first African American Admiral in the US NavyIn April 1946 he was released from active duty, but remained in the Naval Reserve.  He returned to his hometown of Richmond, Virginia to complete his bachelor's degree in History.

Admiral Gravely was recalled to active duty in 1949.  As part of the Navy's response to President Truman's Executive Order to desegregate the Armed Services, his initial assignment was as a Navy Recruiter, recruiting African Americans in the Washington, D.C. area.

Admiral Gravely was assigned tours of duty aboard the following: PC-1264, USS Iowa, USS Toledo and USS Seminole. He served as Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of the Theodore E. Chandler. Additionally, he was the Commanding Officer of the USS Falgout, Taussig, and Jouett. From 1971 to 1973 he served a dual role as as the Director of Naval Communications (on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations) and commander of the Naval Telecommunications Command. His last tour of duty before his retirement in August 1980, was as Director of the Defense Communications Agency in Washington, overseeing the communications network linking Washington with American and allied bases worldwide.

Admiral Gravely was  highly decorated, including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal and Navy Commendation Medal.

After leaving active duty in 1980 Samuel Gravely became director of the Defense Communications Agency in Washington. He died Friday October 22, 2004 at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, after a stroke. He was 82. Admiral Gravely had three children, and was survived by his wife, Alma.

761st Tank Battalion    First Lieutenant Vernon J. Baker   James Armistead     Rear Admiral Barry C. Black  
Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr. Corporal Buddie Branch    Vice Admiral David L. Brewer III   Rear Admiral Erroll M. Brown  
 Staff Sergeant Edward A. Carter, Jr.  Brigadier General Roscoe C. Cartwright     Rear Admiral Osie V. Combs    
Four Star General Benjamin Davis   Major General Arnold Fields    Rear Admiral Lillian Fishburne    First Lieutenant John R. Fox 
Vice Admiral Samuel Gravely, Jr.   Major General James F. Hamlet   Harlem Hellfighters   4 Star General Daniel James Jr.  
Private First Class Willy F. James, Jr.    Corporal Harry Johns    Major Robert H. Lawrence, Jr.   
Staff Sergeant Aubrey L. McDade, Jr.    Vice-Admiral Ed Moore   Four Star General Lloyd W. Newton   
Captain Joseph N. Peterson   General Colin Powell    Captain Ronald A. Radcliffe   Admiral J. Paul Reason   
Four Star General Edward A. Rice Jr.    Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers  Clifford Chester Sims   Robert Smalls   
Major General Clifford L. Stanley    Tuskegee Airmen   Lieutenant Colonel Merryl (David) Tengesdal   
Captain Charles L. Thomas      Private George Watson    Major General Leo V. Williams, III     Colonel Charles Young
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