U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Reflect On First Black Graduate

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)– It wasn’t easy being the first black graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Alex DeMetrick reports the man who blazed the trail in 1949 was remembered Wednesday.

Graduation taps many emotions at the Naval Academy.

“I’m definitely humbled by the experience, humbled by the history before me. And I just want to give thanks for everyone who made it possible for me to be here,” Nathan Jester, a 2012 USNA graduate, said.

Wesley Brown, more than any other, was that person.

And Wednesday, at the Academy’s chapel, Brown was celebrated as the first African-American to graduate from the Naval Academy in 1949. He died last month at the age of 85.

“We pay tribute to the life of a guy who paved the way, that made it possible for all of us to be here today,” Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden (Ret.), a NASA administrator, said.

For Bolden, Brown’s trailblazing made it possible for him to travel into space, and now run NASA.

“Wesley Brown showed us by the power of example, what it means to be a real American hero,” he said.

In the 1940s, Brown was subjected to racism and harassment on campus.

“He said every single day of his plebe year, ‘I think of quitting. But the next morning, I changed my mind.’ And aren’t we all lucky that he did?” Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of Naval Operations, said.

“When I think of Wesley Brown and all the lives he touched, he left them all better. We thank you, Wesley. We love you and you’ll be missed and forever in our hearts,” Janie Mines, a 1980 USNA graduate, said.

Brown also served through the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He retired as a lieutenant commander, and in 2008, the Academy named its new field house after him.

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