Samuel L. Gravely Jr. was named the first Black admiral for the U.S. Navy on April 28, 1971. It was just one of several milestones achieved by the 38-year military veteran.
Gravely was born June 4, 1922 in Richmond, Virginia, the eldest of five children. After briefly attending Virginia Union University, Gravely entered the U.S. Naval Reserve and was eventually commissioned as an ensign in 1944 after attending UCLA and Midshipmen’s School at Columbia University. Gravely’s commission occurred just eight months after the “Golden Thirteen” became the Navy’s first Black officers.
After being released from active duty in 1946, Gravely went back to the Naval Reserve corps and married teacher Alma Bernice Clark that same year. He resettled in Richmond and the couple raised their three children. Gravely returned to Virginia Union and graduated in 1948 with a degree in history. He was called back into active duty in 1949, working primarily as a recruiter before serving in the Korean War. He became a full-time officer in the Navy and specialized in naval communications.
In 1961, Gravely was the first Black Navy officer to lead a ship. The following year, he was the first Black officer to command a combat ship. Additionally, he is also the first Black officer to lead a ship into a combat zone. In 1967, Gravel was the Navy’s first Black captain and in 1971, he was the Navy’s first rear admiral.
Little Known Black History Fact: Samuel L. Gravely was originally published on blackamericaweb.com