Northrop Grumman, Navy celebrate African American pioneers - - The News for South Mississippi

Northrop Grumman, Navy celebrate African American pioneers

By Patrice Clark – bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - The United States Navy and Northrop Grumman celebrated the lives of African American trailblazers Wednesday.  The first black admiral, the late Samuel Lee Gravely, Junior, was among those honored for sacrifice and service to our country.

The celebration began with the Pascagoula High School's musical rendition of, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" often called "The Negro National Anthem."

The students sang to a packed house of Northrop Grumman shipbuilders along with Navy men and women.  The crowd also attended to pay tribute to movers and shakers who changed the nation in their own ways. 

"Take a look at history and it's easy to point out trailblazers," Navy sailor Anthony Goldsmith said.

History maker Moss Point Mayor Anice Liddell echoes that sentiment.  She spoke about being the first woman elected to the top spot in her city. 

"I am proud to be an American, and I hope you are proud of me," Mayor Liddell said. 

The true focus of the celebration was for a man of many firsts, the late Samuel Lee Gravely, Jr. Historian Paul Stillwell told the crowd how for 38 years Gravely fought tirelessly for our country, all while fighting against racism. 

"You talk about role models and mentors, Gravely didn't have that benefit," Stillwell said. 

Gravely was able to rise from segregation to the ranks of admiral and vice-admiral, and became the first African American to command a U.S. Fleet. Adding to that list of accomplishments, Gravely now has a ship that bears his name.  In 2009, Northrop Grumman christened the USS Gravely, a guided missile destroyer. 

"If that doesn't drive you, if that does not motivate you, if that does not give you a mean to the end, I don't know what will," Navy commander Doug Kunzman said about Gravely's accomplishments. 

The sailors said they're proud to have a vessel that symbolizes drive and determination. 

Admiral Gravely died in 2004. He also has a school named in his honor.  The students along with his wife sent a message of thanks for the celebration ceremony. 

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