Navy diver Carl Brashear, whose life is portrayed in the recent movie “Men of Honor,” will speak at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 13, in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium.

The talk, sponsored by St. Thomas’ University Lectures Committee, is free and open to the public.

Brashear, now 70 and retired, is an African American who grew up on a Kentucky sharecropper farm. In 1948, at age 17, he joined the Navy at a time when military desegregation was still underway. Like many African American sailors of that era, he wound up with galley duty.

He dreamed of becoming a deep-sea diver, but his first request to enter the Navy Dive School was denied. He second request was granted but he flunked his first test. Brashear didn’t give up, and from 1961 to 1963 he studied to return to the diving program. After finally completing the 26-week course, he graduated third in his class of 17.

In 1966, while serving on the USS Hoist, he was on a mission to recover a nuclear weapon in Spanish waters. During the mission his left leg was injured in an accident and was amputated below the knee. Although it was expected he would retire, Brashear was determined to continue his Naval diving career and in 1970, after training with the Experimental Diving Unit, became the first African American master diver in Navy history.

Brashear retired in 1979 with the rank of master chief boatswain’s mate, and is one of only seven enlisted men whose histories are enshrined in the U.S. Naval Institute archives.

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