Retired Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Brown, who overcame all the challenges that he encountered to become the first black graduate of the United States Naval Academy, was remembered in a memorial service held in Annapolis, Maryland.
Around 200 people gathered for the memorial service in remembrance of the man who paved the way for generations of minorities at the Academy, even before the era of civil rights.
Brown passed away last month at the age of 85. He was the 6th African-American student to enter into the Naval Academy, and was the first to graduate. He was ranked 370th out of nearly 800 the class of 1949. His ashes were interred in a columbarium on the academy grounds, prior to the memorial service.
Astronaut Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, the first black administrator of NASA, was among those who attended the service, held at the Naval Academy chapel. Speaking before those in attendance, he said: “I stand before all of you today as a proud child of Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Brown’s sacrifice.”
Bolden, who graduated 15 years after Brown, shared further: “While I had my own difficulties gaining admission to the academy in 1964, Wesley Brown’s 1949 graduation and the legacy he left behind helped paved the way for me and so many others.”
The number of minority students in the Academy has increased over the years. For this year’s graduating class, 277 out of 1,099 were minority students.
Kerwin Miller, a 1975 academy graduate, recounted how Brown lived alone at the academy so that he would not burden roommates with living with the only black student. Everyone remembers how Brown had endured the poor treatment of fellow students, with “resilience and grace.”
Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, shared: “What he did for us is so much greater than what we could do for him… He showed us that one person can make a difference.”