Ship named after Richmond native

By Gray Hall - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Richmond native who made a name for himself in the navy-- now has a navy ship named after him. The USS Gravely will be officially commissioned Saturday.

It's a quiet street in Richmond's Fulton neighborhood. Samuel Gravely Junior was born in 1922 and grew up not far from here. Now, the street bears his name and the rank to which he rose-- admiral.

Gravely's navy career was full of firsts. He was the first African American to command a U.S. warship, one of the first to attend the prestigious naval war college, and the first to rise to vice admiral, in command of an entire fleet.

Now Gravely's name has gone from a peaceful Richmond street to a U.S. navy war ship. The USS Gravely is a $2-billion destroyer with a crew of nearly 300 sailors. She was christened last year-- the admiral's widow performed the honor by breaking a champagne bottle.

"She's beautiful, just beautiful. My husband would love her," said Alma Gravely, wife of Admiral Gravely.

The ship's executive officer, Michael Weatherspoon, says Gravely helped pave the way for officers like him.

"To be the first executive officer on board the ship, and also being African American- I think it speaks volumes for the opportunities the navy has to offer, in keeping with Admiral Gravely's legacy," Weatherspoon said.

Gravely died in 2004. Today the folks who live on Admiral Gravely Boulevard go about their lives in peace-- a peace gravely helped to provide.

The commissioning ceremony for the Gravely is scheduled for Saturday in Wilmington, North Carolina. That ceremony will mark the ship's entry into active service.

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