Wesley A. Brown

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Wesley Brown
George E. Goodfellow
Wesley Brown
Born(1927-04-03)April 3, 1927
Baltimore, Maryland
DiedMay 22, 2012(2012-05-22) (aged 85)
Silver Spring, Maryland
Occupation(s)U.S. Navy Officer, civil engineer
Known forFirst African American to graduate from the United States Naval Academy

Wesley Anthony Brown (April 3, 1927 – May 22, 2012) was the first African-American graduate of the United States Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland.[1] He served in the United States Navy from May 2, 1949, until June 30, 1969. He was involved in both the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Early life[edit]

Wesley Brown was born on April 3, 1927, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was graduated from Dunbar High School in Washington, DC,[2] where he was Cadet Corps Battalion Commander during his senior year. He became the first in his family to attend college, at Howard University, a historically black college.[3]

Naval career[edit]

Midshipman Brown, laboratory exercise in electrical engineering, 1949.

Brown was nominated for admission and later appointed to the Naval Academy by New York Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Brown entered the Academy on June 30, 1945, as the sixth African American to be admitted. On June 3, 1949, he was the first to graduate from the institution.[4] He was an accomplished athlete, running cross-country with fellow Academy classmate Jimmy Carter, who became the 39th president.[3] The experiences of the first five African Americans admitted to the academy and the challenges Brown and the others faced are documented in the book Breaking the Color Barrier: The US Naval Academy's First Black Midshipmen and the Struggle for Racial Equality, written by Navy historian Robert J. Schneller Jr.

Post-naval career[edit]

Brown retired as a lieutenant commander in June 1969 after serving 20 years in the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps. There Brown was responsible for building military service member homes in Hawaii, roads in Liberia, wharves in the Philippines, a nuclear power plant in Antarctica, and a desalination plant in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. When he retired, Brown consulted on construction projects and joined the faculty at Howard University as a physical facilities analyst. He served as chairman of the Service Academy Selection Board of DC's Congressional Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton. He retired from the University .

Personal life[edit]

Brown and his wife Crystal had four children and seven grandchildren. Their daughter Carol Jackson chairs the California Division of the American Cancer Society[5] and heads the External Affairs and Diversity Management departments at Macy's West.[6]

Brown was a volunteer motivational speaker; he spoke with Washington, DC high school students and midshipmen of the USNA Black Studies Club during Black History Month.

Brown's wife, Crystal Malone Brown, was the daughter of educator Lillian Skinker Malone. Crystal Malone made national headlines as a college student in Vermont in 1946, when a sorority was put on probation for accepting her, a Black pledge. The Vermont chapter refused to comply with national demands, and instead dissolved.[7]


Brown died aged 85 on May 22, 2012, in Silver Spring, Maryland.[8]

Awards and honors[edit]

Then Captain, now Admiral, Bruce E. Grooms (left) and Wesley Brown (right) at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Wesley Brown Field House, March 25, 2006

Brown served in the Republic of the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam and Guantanamo Bay, and Cuba.

Brown received the American Theater Ribbon and World War II Victory Medal. he was recognized with the 2009 National Society of Black Engineers Golden Torch Legacy Award-First Honoree.

The Wesley Brown Field House at the U.S. Naval Academy is named in his honor. Brown wielded a shovel in the groundbreaking on March 25, 2006.[9] The building was completed in March 2008[10] and dedicated on May 10, 2008.[3][11] Brown also participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Jeffrey L. Fowler, and Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.

Brown was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "First African-American Graduate From Naval Academy Dies". CBS Baltimore. May 24, 2012. Retrieved May 24, 2012.
  2. ^ Stewart, A. (2013). First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America's First Black Public High School. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books.
  3. ^ a b c Rucker, Philip (May 11, 2008). "Facility Dedicated to Black Pioneer: D.C. Resident Broke Institute's Color Barrier When He Graduated in 1949". The Washington Post Company. Retrieved February 9, 2010.
  4. ^ Journalist 2nd Class Matt Jarvis, U.S. Naval Academy Public Affairs (March 28, 2006). "Naval Academy Breaks Ground on Wesley Brown Field House". United States Navy. Retrieved May 24, 2012. Lt. Cmdr. Wesley A. Brown was the sixth African American to enter the Naval Academy, and in 1949, he became the Academy's first African-American graduate.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ American Cancer Society, California Division. 2008 Report
  6. ^ Bill Imada, "Have Asian Americans Done Enough for the Black Community?" Advertising Age, February 21, 2008.
  7. ^ Di Corpo, Ryan (March 5, 2021). "Crystal Malone Brown, D.C. educator who tried to integrate sorority in 1940s, dies at 94". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2023-02-05.
  8. ^ Huff Post: Black Voices obituary, May 24, 2012.
  9. ^ Journalist 2nd Class Matt Jarvis, U.S. Naval Academy Public Affairs (March 26, 2006). "Naval Academy Breaks Ground on Wesley Brown Field House". United States Navy. Retrieved February 24, 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Kelly, Earl (May 8, 2008). "Naval Academy unveils $52 million field house: Facility named after first African-American graduate". Capital Gazette Communications, Inc. Retrieved February 9, 2010.
  11. ^ Green, Patrick (Trident staff) (May 15, 2008). "Wesley Brown Field House Dedicated". Comprint Military Publications ("Naval Academy on dcmilitary.com"). Archived from the original on January 2, 2013. Retrieved February 9, 2010.

External links[edit]