- The Washington Times - Monday, October 25, 2004

Samuel Gravely Jr., 82, pioneering Navy admiral

RICHMOND (AP) — Vice Adm. Samuel Gravely Jr., the first black commander of a Navy ship and the first black to earn the rank of admiral, died Oct. 22 at Bethesda Naval Hospital after a short illness. He was 82.

Alma Gravely said her husband suffered a massive stroke after being admitted to the hospital about three weeks ago. He also had battled an infection in his bloodstream and other health problems, she said.

Adm. Gravely, a Richmond native who lived in Haymarket, Va., served 38 years in the Navy and the Naval Reserve. With each promotion, he became the highest-ranking black in the Navy, ultimately becoming a three-star admiral.

He was the first black commissioned as an officer and the first to graduate from a Navy midshipman’s school. He was the first black officer to serve aboard a Navy fighting ship and in 1962 became the first black to command one — the radar picket ship Falgout. He was also the first black line officer to rise to the rank of commander and the first to become captain. In 1971, he became the first to earn the rank of admiral.

When he retired in 1980, Adm. Gravely was director of the Defense Communication Agency, an organization of about 3,500 employees with an annual budget of $120 million.

He was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal and several Navy commendation medals.

Adm. Gravely earned a history degree from Virginia Union University in 1948.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, David Edward Gravely of Manassas Park, Va.; a daughter, Tracey E. Gravely of Fredericksburg, Va.; and two brothers, Edward C. Gravely of Hyattsville, and Robert Michael Gravely of Richmond.

A memorial service will be held at noon Saturday at Olive Branch Baptist Church in Haymarket. A second service will be held Dec. 17 at Arlington National Cemetery, with burial to follow.

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