Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content



Ship Collage

"Success in life is the result of several factors. My formula is simply education plus motivation plus perseverance. Education is paramount. Motivation: one must decide what he wants to do in life, how best to get there and to proceed relentlessly towards that goal. Perseverance: the ability to steadfastly proceed to your goal despite all obstacles. It is the ability to overcome.”

Samuel L. Gravely, Jr.
Vice Admiral, USN

Samuel Lee Gravely, Jr., first enlisted in the Naval Reserves on September 15, 1942 and was trained as a Fireman Apprentice. In 1943, he was selected for the V-12 program, to train as a Naval officer. On December 14, 1944 Gravely successfully completed midshipman training, becoming the first African American commissioned from the Navy Reserve Officer Training Course. 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 U.S. 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).

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.