MATT1c Samme Willie Genes Mcgrady

Unknown Sailor

MATT1c Samme Willie Genes Mcgrady

Samme Willie G. McGrady was born March 12, 1919 in Pike County in southeast Alabama about 40 miles from Montgomery. His father, Willie McGrady, was a farmer and his mother Mary Boswell McGrady, a homemaker.

Samme, sometimes identified as Samuel or Sammie, was the fourth of seven children.

He enlisted in the Navy on Dec. 11, 1939. Mr. McGrady was a mess attendant first class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

Mr. McGrady was African-American, which meant that only one branch of service — mess attendant — was open to him in the segregated Navy dating to the Wilson Administration. Messmen cooked, cleaned and performed other services. They could advance to become a petty officer first class as a steward or cook for officers, but that was their limit.

In 1948 President Harry Truman signed an executive order abolishing segregation in the military. But it wasn’t until the end of the Korean War in 1953 that most branches were integrated.

A short article in April 1950 in The Troy Messenger reported that the newly organized Samuel W. McGrady American Legion Post 325 was planning an evening of boxing matches in the Academy Street High School gym. The newspaper referred to Post 325 as colored, and said there would be “reserved seats for white persons” at the event.

The Academy Street school opened in the early 1920s to serve African-American elementary students and in 1941 became a high school. It was segregated until 1971.


Sources: The Troy Messenger; Alabama News Center; the Anderson (Indiana) Herald Bulletin; U.S. Veterans Administration master index; Census; Navy muster roll. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.

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