Navy Destroyer Honors First African American Flag Officer

By Conway Jones

Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely, Jr

The USS Gravely (DDG 107) was commissioned in Wilmington, NC, on Nov. 20, joining the fleet in a ceremony honoring the late Vice Admiral Samuel Lee Gravely, Jr., the Navy’s first African American flag officer. The new Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer commemorates the 38 years of military service of Vice Admiral Gravely, who achieved many “firsts” as an officer in the United States Navy. He was the first African American to command a warship (USS Theodore E. Chandler); to command a warship in combat (USS Taussig); to command a major warship (USS Jouett); to attain flag rank; to become a vice admiral; and to command a numbered fleet (3rd Fleet). “This warship is now ready to serve our great nation and carry on the example of a great American, a great man, and a great naval officer, Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely,” said Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead, the ceremony’s principal speaker. Many of the 4,000 in attendance were family and friends of Admiral Gravely himself, including his widow, the ship’s sponsor, Alma B. Clark Gravely. Mrs. Gravely let the crew know that she believed they were ready to represent the ideals commemorated by the ship’s name. “I have great confidence that you will keep a clean ship, have respect for each other and good morale at sea and on shore at all times,” she said.  “In keeping with these requests from me (and my husband), I know that you and our wonderful ship are ready today to go to sea.  And if in harm’s way will be ready to stay its course.” The ceremony concluded when Mrs. Gravely ordered the crew, “Bring our ship to life!”  The Sailors manned the rails, bringing the Navy’s newest destroyer to life.
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