Retired Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Brown, the first African-American graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, has died. He was 85.
Brown passed away on Tuesday at his home in Silver Spring, Maryland, after battling colon cancer.
Brown was the sixth African-American to be admitted into the Academy, but was the first one to earn a degree. He graduated in 1949, after studying engineering; he ran varsity track and cross-country, and among his teammates was former President Jimmy Carter. His service encompassed three wars: World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
He was born Wesley Anthony Brown in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 3, 1927. He grew up in Washington D.C.; his father was a delivery truck driver, while his mother worked at a dry cleaner. He went to Howard University before he was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1945.
He spent 20 years as a civil engineer with the United States Navy, and helped build houses in Hawaii; roads in Liberia; waterfront facilities in the Philippines; and a seawater conversion plant in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He retired from the Navy in 1969, and went on to become a construction project manager for the state of New York, as well as a facilities planner for Howard University.
Naval Academy superintendent Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller said the following about Brown in a statement: “[Brown] embodied the highest ideals of the academy’s mission and dedicated himself to decades of selfless and distinguished service to our nation.”