DELBERT D. BLACK
A true pioneer, Master Chief Petty Officer Delbert D. Black became the first Master Chief Petty Officer of the U.S. Navy (MCPON) on January 13, 1967. The position was then referred to as the Navy’s Senior Enlisted Advisor prior to evolving into the current title the Navy knows today.
Black was born in Orr, Oklahoma, and grew up a self-proclaimed “Oklahoma farm boy.” He joined the Navy in March 1941. After completing training in San Diego, he was assigned to USS Maryland (BB-46) and was aboard during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Master Chief Black served on nine warships for a total of 21 years of sea duty throughout his 30-year career. During his service in the Pacific, he saw his ship torpedoed several times and also attacked by kamikaze planes.
“I was definitely haze gray and underway most of my time in the Navy, and I loved it,” Master Chief Black said.
“Sea duty was one of the most enjoyable aspects of being in the Navy to me. That’s where you relied on your shipmates, as you fought, and worked side by side. That’s what the Navy is all about.”
Master Chief Black’s tour as MCPON covered the challenging times and issues of the Vietnam Conflict. MCPON Black quickly won support of Navy leadership for his newly established office. He was responsible for initiating the Command Master Chief program throughout the Navy to ensure proper enlisted leadership and representation.
MCPON Black remained active with the Navy even after his retirement in 1971. He stayed very involved with the Fleet Reserve Association and USO. In a later interview he spoke of his close ties with the Navy.
“The Navy is and always will be a part of my family. I never consider myself retired from the Navy, just less active. Anything I can do to help Sailors, it is my privilege to do, and I always will.”
That was obvious in his frequent travels around the world visiting with Sailors.
During his first shore assignment, a 14-month shore tour in Washington, D.C., Black met the woman who would become his wife, Ima, who is ship’s sponsor for Delbert D. Black (DDG 119). In December 1999, they celebrated their 50-year wedding anniversary in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where his career began.
MCPON Black died March 5, 2000, at his home in Winter Park, Florida, from a heart attack. He was 77.
In addition to serving as the first Master Chief Petty Officer of the U.S. Navy, Master Chief Black was the first Navy enlisted man to be awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
Admiral Jay L. Johnson, who served from 1996-2000 as 26th Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Chief of Naval Operations, said, “Master Chief Black was a great leader who was tireless in his pursuit of improving the lives of our Sailors and their families. We are forever grateful for his service to our Nation.”