Friday, February 21, 2020

Samuel Lee Gravely Jr: First African American to command a U.S. Navy ship

Samuel Lee Gravely Jr., June 4, 1922 – October 22, 2004) was a United States Navy officer. In 1961, he became the first African-American officer to command a U.S. Navy ship, the USS Theodore E. Chandler (DD-717). When he took command of the destroyer escort USS Falgout (DE-324) in January 1962, he was the first African-American officer to command a combat ship. During the Vietnam War he commanded the destroyer USS Taussig (DD-746) as it performed plane guard duty and gunfire support off the coast of Vietnam in 1966, making him the first African American to lead a ship into combat.

He was also the first African American in the U.S. Navy to become a fleet commander, and the first to become a flag officer, retiring as a vice admiral.

Gravely's military decorations include the World War II Victory Medal, the Korean Service Medal with two service stars, the United Nations Korea Medal, and the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.

In Richmond, the street on which Gravely grew up was renamed "Admiral Gravely Boulevard" in 1977. The destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107), commissioned in 2010, was named in his honor.

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