Honoring the first Master Chief Petty Officer

Delbert D. Black

The OK Senate Aeronautics and Transportation Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 953 by Sen. Chris Kidd, R-Waurika, to honor the life and extraordinary career of Oklahoma son and Navy veteran, Delbert D. Black. The measure will designate the seven-mile section of I-35 beginning on the south side of the State Highway 32 interchange north to the Oswalt Road interchange in Love County as the “First MCPON Delbert D. Black, U.S. Navy, Memorial Highway.”    

Born in Orr, OK in 1922, Black enlisted in the Navy in March 1941 and after completing his recruit training in San Diego, California, he was assigned to the USS Maryland (BB 46) and was aboard during Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

On Jan. 13, 1967, the Secretary of the Navy announced that Master Chief Black was selected as the first Senior Enlisted Advisor of the Navy. The title was officially changed to Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) a few months later. Black was the highest-ranking enlisted sailor in the U.S. Navy, serving as the enlisted liaison to the Chief of Naval Operations. 

“First MCPON Black had an incredible military career that deserves to be honored and forever remembered, which is why we want to name this stretch of highway near his birth place in his memory,” Kidd said. “What an incredible example for our youth—a boy from the small community of Orr, Oklahoma, through hard work and dedication became the highest-ranking enlisted member in the U.S. Navy and will forever be a part of our state and nation’s history.”

MCPON Black retired from active duty in April 1971 but continued his involvement with the Navy as an active member of the USO Council of Central Florida; the Fleet Reserve Association; and co-chairman on the Secretary of Navy Committee on Retired Personnel.

USS Delbert D. Black

As MCPON, he focused on problems associated with enlisted guidance, leadership, and policy. Black was the first Navy enlisted man to receive the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service as MCPON. He passed away in March 2000 and was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. 

After a decade of MCPONs advocating to honor him, the Navy also named a combatant ship in his honor, the USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119), which was launched on Sept. 8, 2017, and commissioned on Sept. 26, 2020.

Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite observed: “Commissioning a ship after the first Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy is an honor without equal. The Navy has always been and will always be indelibly influenced by the leadership of our senior enlisted sailors epitomized by Delbert Black.” Built at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., USS Delbert D. Black will be homeported at Mayport, Fla. In recognition of the Navy’s first MCPON, Retired Master Chief Jim Leuci wrote a short overview of MCPON Black’s path-breaking tenure in “Thursday Tidings” click here for more at Navy History.org.

SB 953 will next be considered by the full Senate.

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