Bill passes honoring life and service of nation’s first Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy

Oklahoma City – The Senate Aeronautics and Transportation unanimously approved Senate Bill 953 by Sen. Chris Kidd, R-Waurika, to honor the life and extraordinary career of Oklahoma son and Navy veteran, Delbert D. Black. He was the first Master Chief Petty Officer of the U.S. Navy.

The measure will designate the seven-mile section of I-35 beginning on the south side of the State Highway 32 interchange north to the Oswalt Road interchange in Love County as the “First MCPON Delbert D. Black, U.S. Navy, Memorial Highway.”

Born in Orr, Oklahoma, in 1922, Black enlisted in the Navy in March 1941 and after completing his recruit training in San Diego, California, he was assigned to the U.S.S. Maryland (BB 46) and was aboard during Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

On Jan. 13, 1967, the Secretary of the Navy announced that Master Chief Black was selected as the first Senior Enlisted Advisor of the Navy.

The title was officially changed to Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) a few months later. Black was the highest-ranking enlisted sailor in the U.S. Navy, serving as the enlisted liaison to the Chief of Naval Operations.

“First MCPON Black had an incredible military career that deserves to be honored and forever remembered, which is why we want to name this stretch of highway near his birthplace in his memory,” Kidd said.

“What an incredible example for our youth — a boy from the small community of Orr, through hard work and dedication became the highest-ranking enlisted member in the U.S. Navy and will forever be a part of our state and nation’s history.”

MCPON Black retired from active duty in April 1971 but continued his involvement with the Navy as an active member of the USO Council of Central Florida; the Fleet Reserve Association; and co-chairman on the Secretary of Navy Committee on Retired Personnel.

As MCPON, he focused on problems associated with enlisted guidance, leadership, and policy. Black was the first Navy enlisted man to receive the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service as MCPON.

He passed away in March 2000 and was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

After a decade of MCPONs advocating to honor him, the Navy also named a combatant ship in his honor, the U.S.S. Delbert D. Black (DDG-119), which was launched on Sept. 8, 2017, and commissioned on Sept. 26, 2020.

S.B. 953 will next be considered by the full Senate.