Rear Adm. Victor Guillory, Mrs. Alma Gravely, family members and Prince William County Public School officials break ground for the Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Jr. Elementary School. The school is being named in honor of the Navy's first African American flag officer, vice admiral and fleet commander. U.S. Navy photo by Mr. Philip Molter
By Philip Molter, Naval District Washington Public Affairs
A pioneering naval officer was honored April 23 when family members and officials gathered in Haymarket, Va., to break ground for a school which will be named for him.
The Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Jr. Elementary School will carry the name of the U.S. Navy’s first black flag officer, vice admiral and fleet commander.
Present at the site -- which was just a short distance from the Gravely residence -- were Alma Gravely, Rear Adm. Victor Guillory, Deputy Director of Surface Warfare, numerous Prince William County officials and other family and community members.
“I know now and I’m very satisfied that this school being named after my husband was named because all of you did a lot of work getting here,” Alma Gravely said. “I just think it’s tremendous. I want to thank you very, very much for thinking of him. I have a notion he’s up there smiling down on us.”
“I really do appreciate the opportunity to be here today,” said Guillory. “I had the opportunity to meet Admiral, then Captain, Gravely. And I was amazed how this individual commanded a presence. He certainly didn’t pick me out of the group, but he inspired me and gave me an opportunity to dream. I hope this school being named for him will go a long way to inspiring young hearts and minds.”
Gravely enlisted in the Navy Reserve
in 1942. He then entered a program designed to select officers and was commissioned Dec. 14, 1944. His career spanned some 38 years, including command of several warships
. He was selected as the first black flag officer while in command of USS Jouett (DLG 29). He later rose to vice admiral, and was assigned to command the U.S. 3rd Fleet, both also firsts. He retired in August 1980, and lived in the Haymarket area until his death in 2004.
“Not only does (Gravely) represent a person who was very focused on education -- to graduate (high school) at 16 -- but when you look at year after year of his accomplishments, that he and his family were part of this community, says much,” said Dr. Steven Walts, Prince William County superintendent of schools. “As a role model for all children and an African American that achieved tremendous success -- we are always looking for role models that represent our entire community. I think that’s a very significant piece of that. What he accomplished in his life, in his position, what he represents for the African-American community -- I think all told, it’s just an excellent choice.”
In addition to the school being named after the Gravely, the future USS Gravely
(DDG 107) has also been named in his honor.