Sunshine and Grit
This spring a large crowd will gather at the U.S. Naval Academy to dedicate Wesley Brown Field House, a state-of-the-art athletic facility. At the tradition-laden Academy, it's exceedingly rare to name a building for a living person. A generation ago, a similar honor was conferred on Admiral Hyman Rickover, the man who spearheaded the advent of naval nuclear power. Wesley Brown, in his way, also had a pioneering role in changing the culture of the service. In 1949 he became the first black graduate of the Academy.
Brown, who is now 80, is justifiably proud of his achievement but also quick to put it into perspective. In a recent interview for his U.S. Naval Institute oral history, he said that he wasn't a notable scholar or athlete or—he might have added—a famous combat leader. The naming, he said, is the Academy's way of symbolizing that it's committed to diversity and is seeking to recruit a population of midshipmen that truly represents America.