Ship Named After Black Naval Officer

by November 15, 2010

USS Gravely, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer The USS Gravely, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, will be commissioned Nov. 20 in Wilmington, NC, becoming first U.S. Navy ship to be named in honor of an African-American commissioned Naval officer.

Vice Admiral Samuel Lee Gravely Jr. Gravely was the first African-American to serve aboard a fighting ship as an officer, the first to command a U.S. Navy ship, the first to serve as a fleet commander and the first to become an admiral.

Gravely was born in Richmond, VA, on June 4, 1922. He enlisted in the Naval Reserves in1942 and was recalled to active duty in 1949. He served his initial assignment in the Washington, DC area, recruiting African Americans into the Navy.

He went on to a have a successful career that lasted 38 years. His personal motto was: “Education, motivation and perseverance are a formula for success.”

Gravely’s widow, Alma Bernice Clark Gravely, is the sponsor of the ship, the PCU Gravely.

“He had to go through a lot,” she said. “I think inside of him, he would be beaming, and he would feel so honored and so humble. But on the outside, I think he’d be saying: ‘You mean you’re going to name a ship after me?’”

Gravely died in 2004.

The PCU Gravely is more than 509 feet in length with a beam of 66 feet. It draws 31 feet of water and has a top speed of more than 30 knots. After joining the fleet with the name USS Gravely, it will have a complement of 380 enlisted men and officers.

The ship will be capable of simultaneously fighting air, surface and subsurface battles. It contains offensive and defensive weapons designed to support maritime military needs well into the 21st century.

For more information on the USS Gravely, visit

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