Master Chief Williams Goines is officially regarded as the first African-American Navy SEAL member. Master Chief Goines achieved the feat in the early sixties, overcoming the typical racial barriers many soldiers and individuals faced during the times.
Goines, a native of Lockland, Ohio, discovered his life’s path when he watched a film about Navy frogmen during World War II on an underwater demolition mission. The high school junior immediately tried to sign up for the Navy, but was turned away by the recruiter, who encouraged him to graduate school.
The public pool in Goines’ hometown was whites-only for many years, so he taught himself how to swim at a local creek. Tensions were such that when the pool was racially integrated, it was reportedly filled with rocks and gravel so that no one could use the facility.
Because of his natural swimming ability, Goines was a lock for several of the Navy’s diving programs but race would prove to be a daunting factor. However, he began frogman training with a series of Army Rangers, Navy officers and other Navy recruits. By the end of the grueling training, he was the only Black men among the 13 left that completed the program in 1957.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy established the SEALs and Goines was its first Black member. The military strike team combined all the best training of the other branches of the military to create a top-secret group of super soldiers for America’s most crucial war missions.
Goines has been relatively mum about his missions and tasks, but does confirm that he’s done several tours during the Vietnam War among other dangerous locales. His dedication to the Navy for 32 years has been recognized, and his fearlessness as a SEAL member is the stuff of legend. Goines is also celebrated as an example for Blacks in swimming and has worked on behalf of the SEALs at several media events.
(Photo: Public Domain)