Now Black, a revered figure who served as the first master chief petty officer of the Navy, is heading back to sea.
The late master chief has been chosen as the namesake for the DDG 119, dubbed guided-missile destroyer Delbert D. Black, the 60 Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer.
In the audience were three former MCPON's, William Plackett, Duane Bushey and Jim Herdt, along with many other distinguished guests, both in uniform and not.
"Good morning Shipmates," she said. "It's a beautiful day. A beautiful day to name a ship the USS Delbert D. Black. So let me tell you a little something about this wonderful Sailor that I was married to for fifty years. As has been said, he was a gunner's mate, so that meant that he spent a lot of time at sea. He loved the sea. I often wanted to ask him, who do you love more — me or the sea?"
"At the end of four years, the office was up and running and we were ready to retire," Ima said near the end of her remarks. "We retired in 1971, and soon we heard that there would be a ship named the USS Delbert D. Black. In my heart I knew that one day this would happen, I just didn't know it would take so long. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And Mr. Secretary, when you go to Pascagoula, would you tell the shipbuilders to please hurry up, I'm running out of time!"
"I think it's safe for me to say that the ship that's about to be named will always be manned at 100 percent in the chief's mess," said Stevens. "They won't have trouble keeping chiefs on it, but I know they will have trouble getting chiefs to transfer off it."
"There comes a time when tradition becomes a hindrance and change is necessary," Black wrote in a 1970 All Hands magazine article. "I believe we have reached that time. Changes are taking place in the military and in the Navy today which will bring about a better Navy tomorrow."
The the Navy's naming of the ship is the culmination of over 10-years work and the efforts of multiple MCPON's who he said encouraged him to continue the effort to honor black with a combatant ship.
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.