As we close out the final days of Black History Month, it is important to note honor African American men and women who helped pave the way towards equality in the armed services from Virginia.
A native of Richmond, Va, Samuel L. Gravely, Jr. enlisted in the Navy Reserves in 1942 as a Fireman Apprentice after spending two years at Virginia Union University. In 1943, Gravely participated in the Navy's accelerated officer V-12 program, training at prestigious schools like UCLA and Columbia University.
Upon graduation in 1944 as an Ensign, Gravely was eventually assigned to the subchaser PC-1264, one of only two ships serving in the fleet with a predominately African American crew. Although many would say vessels like PC-1264 and the USS Mason were "test cases," both served with pride and distinction during the Second World War.
Samuel L. Gravely, Jr. would go on to serve in the Korean War and Vietnam War, earning the distinction as the first African American Flag Officer (Rear Admiral) in 1971. He retired a three star Vice Admiral in the United States Navy in 1980.
Here is a great clip made about the life, legacy, and namesake ship, USS Samuel L. Gravely (DDG 107)
"That was his life; he just moved silently doing what he knew he was to do...no matter what situation he was put in." - Alma Gravely, wife and Gravely sponsor.
There is a street named in Richmond in his honor, as well as the Samuel L. Gravely, Jr. Elementary School in Haymarket, VA.