Delbert D. Black was born July 11, 1922, in Orr, Okla., and grew up a self-proclaimed "Oklahoma farm boy." He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in March 1941, and in his 30-year career served aboard nine warships for a total of 21 years sea duty, including serving aboard USS Maryland (BB 46) in Pearl Harbor on the day of the Japanese attack.
He attained the rank of Master Chief Gunner's Mate in November 1965, and on Jan. 13, 1967 he was selected to be the first Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy. As such, he was the highest-ranking enlisted man in the U.S. Navy, serving as the enlisted representative to the Chief of Naval Operations. His tour covered the challenging times and issues of the Vietnam conflict, and he quickly won support of Navy leadership for his newly established office. He advised the highest Navy councils on problems associated with enlisted guidance, leadership and policy. He initiated the Command Master Chief program throughout the Navy to ensure proper enlisted leadership and representation.
Following retirement from active Navy service in 1971, he remained involved in numerous endeavors to include the Fleet Reserve Association's Sound Off to Congress panel holding public hearings in military communities, Co-Chairman of the Secretary of the Navy Committee on Retired Personnel, and Master of the USO Council of Central Florida. He also per sued a new career as a real estate broker. He was the first Navy enlisted man to receive the Distinguished Service Medal, and also received the Navy Unit Commendation, Good Conduct, American Defense, World War II Victory and China Service, Korean Service, Vietnam Service and Antarctica Service Medals, among others. Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Delbert D. Black passed away in Winter Park, Fl., at the age of 77.