The First African-American Navy SEALs

Fred “Tiz” Morrison, thought to be the first African-American Navy SEAL (Image: Willie Kendrick, Defense Media Activity-Navy Production)
Fred “Tiz” Morrison, thought to be the first African-American Navy SEAL (Image: Willie Kendrick, Defense Media Activity-Navy Production)

Celebrating the contributions of African Americans in military service brings to mind several individuals and units that are well known, like Master Chief Carl Brashear, the Buffalo soldiers, and the Tuskegee Airmen, to name a few.

A less well-known, but equally important name is Fred “Tiz” Morrison, thought to be the first African-American Navy SEAL. Technically, Morrison served as a “Frogman” on an underwater demolition team, the precursor to today’s Navy SEALs.

According to Navy.mil, Morrison was a second class petty officer and was known as an expert in underwater demolition. He served in World War II and served as a member of Underwater Demolition Team 1 in 1948. He also served on Underwater Demolition Team 12 in Korea and was awarded a Bronze Star for his actions there.  

While many recognize Morrison as the first African American SEAL, the first two official teams were not formed until 1962 under President Kennedy’s direction. Now-retired Master Chief William Goines graduated from Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) training in 1956 but was serving as a Frogman in 1962 when he was assigned to SEAL Team Two, making him the first African-American to serve under the newly created designation.

According to Cincinnati.com, Goines served all over the world including a stint in Cuba during the missile crisis and he did three combat tours in Vietnam. He then spent time on the early version of the Navy’s parachute team but was injured in a jump and then retired in 1987. He went on to serve as a school police chief and then worked with the Navy to help recruit young men for SEAL training and increase diversity in the teams.

He was also honored as a special guest at the opening of the African American History Museum in Washington, DC. When asked by Navy.mil about his service, Goines said, “I had always wanted to be a SEAL, it was and continues to be hard work along with sheer determination that sets SEALs apart."

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