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The first black midshipman to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy died Tuesday in an assisted living center in Silver Spring, Maryland, the Washington Post reported Friday.

Retired Lt. Cmdr. Wesley A. Brown, a descendant of Virginia slaves endured racial taunts and merciless hazing to graduate from the academy in 1949. He was 85.

He had metastatic cancer, his wife, Crystal Brown, told the Post.

Cmdr. Brown served in the Navy for 20 years as a civil engineer, and helped design a water treatment facility in Cuba, roads across Liberia, an air station in the Philippines, and a nuclear plant in Antarctica.

Five other black midshipmen attended the academy, founded in 1845, before him, but did not graduate, according to the Post. Most were forced to resign from the academy because of a hostile racial climate.

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

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