Northrop Grumman Honors Legacy of U.S. Navy's First African-American Admiral


Northrop Grumman Honors Legacy of U.S. Navy's First African-American Admiral

By Bill Goldston


PASCAGOULA, Miss., May 16, 2009,  The spirit and legacy of Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely Jr. was heralded this morning as Northrop Grumman Corporation christened the company's 27th Aegis guided missile destroyer Gravely (DDG 107), in the presence of more than 2,000 guests.

Principal speaker, U.S. Navy (ret) Adm. J. Paul Reason hailed Gravely as his mentor, saying, "Black officers like me followed his movements assiduously because he was our guide...our ready source of career advice and of inheritance."

"He excelled at the hardest jobs," Reason said. "He provided for every seagoing Naval officer a viable path to make rank. Wherever a glass ceiling was real or perceived, Sam Gravely left it shattered."

Reason said the Aegis guided missile destroyer represents the modern technology that Vice Adm. Gravely championed. "He taught two, perhaps three generations of officers and sailors to gain and maintain a warrior's advantage with new tools in a new environment. For those of you who will sail in Gravely, know that this is your legacy."

Mrs. Alma Gravely, widow of Vice Adm. Gravely, cemented an eventful day by smashing a bottle against the bow of DDG 107, officially christening the ship Gravely.

Vice Adm. Gravely (June 4, 1922 - October 22, 2004) was a pathfinder whose leadership and achievement as a decorated Naval officer and notable African-American demonstrated the value and strength of diversity in the U.S. military.

Gravely's accomplishments served as watershed milestones for individual achievement and social progress for today's Navy. He was the first African-American to be commissioned a USN Officer from the Navy Reserve Officer Training Course (ROTC); to command a warship (USS Theodore E. Chandler); and go on to command a major warship (USS Jouett); to achieve flag rank and eventually vice admiral; and to command a numbered fleet, the U.S. 3rd Fleet.

"Admiral Gravely believed that all jobs were good jobs because they provided chances to excel," said Mike Petters, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding. "That is our goal as shipbuilders here at Northrop Grumman. And as Gravely also professed, to be successful at anything, you must be committed enough to the cause, to focus on the ultimate goal. I can speak to the commitment of the shipbuilders at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding -- it's outstanding -- and you can see this for yourself just by looking at the ship behind me."

Cmdr. Douglas Kunzman, the prospective commanding officer of the ship, will lead the crew of 276 officers and enlisted personnel when the ship is eventually commissioned in 2010. The 9,200-ton ship is 509 feet in length, has a waterline beam of 59 feet, and a navigational draft of 31 feet. Four gas turbine engines will power the ship to speeds in excess of 30 knots.

Gravely (DDG 107) is a part of the Arleigh Burke (DDG 51)-class of guided missile destroyers, built around the Aegis combat system and the SPY-1D multi-function phased array radar. The Arleigh Burke-class ships are the U.S. Navy's only active destroyers and are among the largest and most powerful destroyers ever built, both larger and more heavily armed than many previous cruisers.


Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding President Mike Petters, Center, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Douglas W. Kunzman, and Mrs. Alma, Gravely


"Today, we christen a technological marvel in Admiral Samuel Gravely's name," said Rear Admiral Victor G. Guillory, U.S. Navy, Director, Surface Warfare Division, Office of Chief of Naval Operations.

"And when she is commissioned, the guided missile destroyer DDG 107 will be the most advanced warship ever put to sea. But this ship's biggest asset will not be her advanced weapons system, but the example she will set for us all," Rear Adm. Guillory said. "The value she will place in the contributions of every man and woman who crosses her quarterdeck and reports for duty, regardless of race, gender, color or creed."

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide.

Vice Admiral Samuel Lee Gravely, Jr. (June 4, 1922 – October 22, 2004) was an African American Navy pioneer — the first African American in the U.S. Navy to be commissioned an officer, the first 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 an admiral.

Samuel Gravely was born on June 4, 1922 in Richmond, Virginia. 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, his first assignment was to Camp Robert Smalls, as the Assistant Battalion Commander for new recruits. Afterwards, he began his seagoing career as a sailor aboard the USS PC-1264, a submarine chaser that was one of only two World War II ships with a largely African-American crew.

In April 1946, he was released from active duty, remaining in the Naval Reserve. He returned to his hometown of Richmond to complete his bachelor's degree in History.

Gravely was recalled to active duty in 1949. As part of the Navy's response to President Harry S. 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.

Gravely went from recruiting to building a Navy career that lasted 38 years and included many distinguished accomplishments.

He became the first African American to command a United States Navy warship (Theodore E. Chandler), the first African American to command an American warship under combat conditions (Taussig), the first African American to command a major naval warship (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, U.S. 3rd Fleet). He was also among the first African-Americans to attend the Naval War College in 1962.

Admiral Gravely was assigned tours of duty aboard the following: PC-1264, Iowa, Toledo and Seminole. He served as Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of the Theodore E. Chandler. Additionally, he was the Commanding Officer of the Falgout, Taussig, and Jouett. 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 also highly decorated, with decorations including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal and Navy Commendation Medal.

After suffering a stroke, Gravely died at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on October 22, 2004.

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