Black History fact for February 1, 2013
Samuel Lee Gravely, Jr. (June 4, 1922 – October 22, 2004) was an African-American pioneer in the United States Navy— the first African American in the U.S. Navy to serve aboard a fighting ship as an officer, the first to command a Navy ship, the first fleet commander, and the first to become a flag officer, retiring as a vice admiral.
Gravely was born on June 4, 1922 in Richmond, Virginia, the oldest of five children of Mary George Gravely and postal worker Samuel L. Gravely, Sr. He attended Virginia Union University but left before graduating to join the Naval Reserve in 1942. He had attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army in 1940 but was turned away due to a supposed heart murmur.
After receiving basic training at Great Lakes, Illinois, Gravely entered the V-12 Navy College Training Program at University of California, Los Angeles. Upon graduating from UCLA, he completed Midshipmen's School at Columbia University and was commissioned an ensign on November 14, 1944. His commission came only eight months after the "Golden Thirteen" became the first African-American officers in the U.S. Navy.