Coast Guard holds ceremony honoring first African American diver

Coast Guard

Ralph Berry, the first Coast Guard African American diver, poses for a picture with the members of Coast Guard’s Regional Dive Locker East during a ceremony honoring his service at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Nov. 23, 2021. Berry’s family have served a combined 400 years with the Coast Guard and includes the historic contributions of Richard Etheridge, the first African American Life-Saving Station Keeper. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Michael R. Moberley)

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) — The U.C. Coast Guard held a ceremony on Tuesday celebrating the service of the first African American Coast Guard diver.

The ceremony was held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, Weeksville Road Building 47, in Elizabeth City.

The Coast Guard honored Ralph Berry, who in 1979 became the first African American to graduate from the Navy Dive and Salvage Center in Panama City, Florida.

He was then assigned to the Atlantic Strike Team in Elizabeth City. He dove on the sunken Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn in 1980. Berry also attached to the Coast Guard Cutter Basswood in Guam and the Coast Guard Cutter Sassafras in Hawaii.

The Coast Guard said his family has served more than 400 years combined in the Coast Guard. One of his relatives is Richard Etheridge, the first African American to command a Life-Saving Station.

“The Coast Guard is proud to celebrate and recognize a member who continually challenged himself and kept true to the Coast Guard core values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty,” the Coast Guard said.

Berry attended and spoke during the ceremony.

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