African American movers and shakers make history - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

African American movers and shakers make history

By Patrice Clark – bio | email

MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - To culminate African American History Month, WLOX is celebrating three movers and shakers who have achieved greatness.  One is named in the history books for a high Navy ranking.  The other two are considered the first females to hold top spots in the city of Moss Point.  

Determination and dedication sums up African American trailblazer Samuel Lee Gravely Jr. The past week the United States Navy and Northrop Grumman celebrated Gravely's life and career. He spent 38 years protecting our nation and pushing down walls of segregation. 

"He was a true American hero," Navy Commander Douglas Kunzman said. 

Those who knew Gravely said he never let his color stop him from achieving. He became the first African American Admiral and commander of a ship.  The Navy also named a destroyer, the USS Gravely, after him. 

"Gravely has a career that is symbolic of hard work, perseverance, high levels of integrity and all of the things that the Navy values," Northrop Grumman's President Mike Petters said. 

Years after Gravely's death, African Americans are still making a mark in the world. Recently, two women made history in Moss Point.  In 2008, Sheila Smallman was named the first woman police chief in the city.  She said it has been a lifelong dream and she's proud to wear the law enforcement badge.   

"The badge does mean a lot to me. But it is more than the badge, my heart is in it. I want to make improvements in the community, but also in the department too," Smallman said.  

Last year, Moss Point citizens voted in their first female mayor, former alderman-at-large Aniece Liddell.  She beat out ten others candidates who were vying for the position. 

"I felt like I had the experience and the know how to make a difference," Mayor Liddell said. 

These history makers also credit their achievement to self pride and persistence. Their goal now is to be role models for next generation of young African American men and women striving for excellence.   

"You have to excel in everything you do, and you have to do the best you can. If you do your best, people will look at your ability and not always about your color," Mayor Liddell said.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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