updated 10/24/2004 1:05:47 PM ET 2004-10-24T17:05:47

Retired Vice Adm. Samuel Lee Gravely Jr., the first black naval officer to become an admiral and to command a warship and a fleet, died Friday at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., after a stroke. He was 82.

Gravely began his 38-year Navy career as a fireman apprentice in 1942 and in the 1960s made history by becoming acting commanding officer of the destroyer USS Theodore E. Chandler. During the Vietnam War he commanded the destroyer USS Taussig and the guided missile frigate USS Jouett.

Subsequent assignments included command of a cruiser destroyer group, the 11th Naval District and the Third Fleet in the Pacific. After leaving active duty in 1980 he became director of the Defense Communications Agency in Washington.

Survivors include his wife, Alma, of Haymarket, Va., two children and two brothers.

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