Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Samuel L. Gravely Jr.

4 June 1922 – 22 October 2004


Rear Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Jr.

Rear Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Jr. Portrait photograph, taken 29 March 1973 by PHC Billings. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph, NH 96773.


Vice Admiral Samuel Lee Gravely Jr. began his illustrious career as a seaman apprentice at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, in 1942. A native of Richmond, Virginia, Gravely would go on to be the U.S. Navy’s first African-American commander, captain, rear admiral, and vice admiral. He was commissioned in 1944 and served during World War II onboard USS PC-1264. After the war, Gravely had a brief stint in the civilian world before he was recalled to active duty in 1949. He would remain on active duty until his retirement in 1980. During the Korean War, he served onboard USS Iowa (BB-61), and later in the 1950s served on USS Toledo (CA-133) and USS Seminole (AKA-104).

In the 1960s, Gravely served as executive officer and acting commander of USS Theodore E. Chandler (DD-717), commanded USS Falgout (DER-324), helped integration efforts at the Naval War College, served in the Defense Communications Agency, commanded USS Taussig (DD-746), and served as coordinator of the Navy’s satellite communications program.

In 1971, while Gravely served as commander of USS Jouett (DLG-29), he was selected for flag rank. His flag commands included the Naval Communications Command, Cruiser-Destroyer Group Two, the Eleventh Naval District, Third Fleet, and the Defense Communications Agency. In 1976, while serving as commander of Third Fleet, Gravely was promoted to vice admiral. Over the course of his distinguished career as a surface warfare officer, he received many high-level awards to include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, and the Navy Commendation Medal.

After retirement from the Navy, Gravely kept busy working with the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. After suffering a stroke, he died on 22 October 2004 at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. His three children and his wife, Alma, survived him. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. USS Gravely (DDG-107) is named in his honor.

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Captain Samuel L. Gravely Jr.

Captain Samuel L. Gravely Jr. photographed circa 1970 while he was commanding officer of USS Jouett (DLG-29). U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph, NH 96774.



Captain Samuel L. Gravely Jr.

Captain Samuel L. Gravely Jr. speaking at the ceremony marking his promotion to flag rank on board USS Jouett (DLG-29) at San Diego, California, 2 June 1971. Prior to his promotion to rear admiral, Gravely was Jouett's commanding officer. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph, NH 96777.



Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Jr., and Vice Admiral Robert P. Coogan

Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely, Jr., (center), Vice Admiral Robert P. Coogan (right), and an unidentified commander (left) saluting during the Third Fleet Change of Command ceremony on board USS Reeves (CG-24) at the Naval Supply Center, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 10 September 1976. Gravely relieved Coogan as commander of Third Fleet. Photographed by PH1 Carl R. Begy. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph, NH 96778.



USS Gravely (DDG-107)

The guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107) departed Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, for a 7-month deployment to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility, 16 November 2015. The ship is named in honor of Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Jr. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 3rd Class Amber Donnelly, 151116-N-WJ261-033.



Rear Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Jr.

Rear Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Jr. (center) received congratulations from other officers following the ceremony marking his promotion to flag rank onboard USS Jouett (DLG-29) at San Diego, California, 2 June 1971. Prior to his promotion to rear admiral, Gravely was Jouett's commanding officer. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph, NH 96776.



Rear Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Jr.

Rear Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Jr. Portrait photograph dated 7 March 1972. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph, NH 96775.



Vice Admiral Samuel Gravely

Vice Admiral Samuel Lee Gravely Jr. was the first African American to achieve flag rank in the Navy.



Retired Vice Admiral Samuel Gravely

Retired Vice Admiral Samuel Gravely, the Navy's first black flag officer, strolled past an exhibit of the first African-American West Point graduate, the Buffalo Soldiers, and African Americans who fought in the Revolutionary War and Civil War. Gravely's escort was Navy Lieutenant Commander Desiree Linson, who worked for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. U.S. Navy photo, 286696-T-RNR64-112.


Published: Wed Dec 30 13:35:13 EST 2020