By Andre Sobocinski, Historian, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery
- African-Americans were among the first Sailors to serve as loblolly boys (precursors of today’s hospital corpsmen). Among these first medical Sailors was Joseph Anderson, a 16-year-old loblolly boy who served aboard the schooner USS Eagle in 1800.
- On July 26, 1943 the first class of African-Americans entered Hospital Corps School in Great Lakes. Among the first corpsmen in 1943 was John Andrew Haskins, Jr., who later earned distinction as the first African-American corpsman awarded for heroism. On October 4, 1944 Haskins was the recipient of the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroic conduct following the explosion of the Naval Magazine in Port Chicago, CA.
- On September 23, 1944 Dr. Thomas Watkins, Jr., of Salisbury, North Carolina became the first African-American dentist commissioned in the Navy Dental Corps.
- On April 25, 1975, Donna P. Davis, of New York, NY, was commissioned as a lieutenant becoming the first black woman to serve as a physician in the Navy.
- In January of 1980 David Lawrence Kennedy was commissioned as the Navy’s first uniformed social worker. Kennedy retired as a captain in 2004.