The military community and the nation mourn the loss of a true American hero, William Harvey Goines, who passed away on June 10, 2024, at the age of 87. As the first African American to complete Navy SEAL training, Goines paved the way for future generations, breaking barriers and exemplifying courage and dedication throughout his illustrious career.

Born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1936, William Goines faced the harsh realities of segregation from an early age. His family’s move to Lockland, a suburb of Cincinnati, introduced him to the systemic racism that pervaded American society. Despite these challenges, Goines harbored dreams of serving his country, inspired by the movie “The Frogmen,” which depicted the bravery of underwater demolition teams (UDT).

Goines enlisted in the Navy in 1955, initially tracking to become a steward due to racial limitations of the time. However, he refused to accept a role limited by his race and pushed to receive training in underwater demolition. His perseverance paid off; in 1957, he graduated from the rigorous frogman training program. When President John F. Kennedy established the Navy SEALs in 1962, Goines was among the first to be chosen for SEAL Team Two, making him the first Black Navy SEAL.

Goines’ service record is nothing short of remarkable. He completed three tours in Vietnam, where he led men in combat and utilized his linguistic skills in English, French, and Spanish to communicate effectively with local forces. His bravery earned him numerous accolades, including the Bronze Star, Navy Commendation Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, and Combat Action Ribbon. In addition, he served with the Chuting Stars, the Navy Parachute Demonstration Team, performing over 600 jumps.

After retiring in 1987 as a Master Chief Petty Officer, Goines continued to serve his community. He became the chief of police for the Portsmouth, Virginia, school system. He worked tirelessly to recruit more people of color into the Navy SEALs, ensuring that his legacy would inspire and empower future generations.

Goines’ dedication extended beyond his military service. He was honored as a special guest at the opening of the African American History Museum in Washington, D.C., and received the Lone Sailor Award in 2023. His contributions to the military and society are remembered not only for breaking racial barriers but also for his unwavering commitment to excellence and integrity.

As we reflect on William Goines’ extraordinary life, his legacy stands as a testament to the power of resilience and determination. His story will continue to inspire all who strive for equality and excellence in service to their country. The Navy SEAL community and the nation owe a great debt to this pioneering hero, whose spirit will endure for generations to come.