When the US Naval Academy in Annapolis was created by an Act of Congress in 1845, its admissions policies were codified into law. Members of Congress have the privilege of personally nominating the majority of candidates in each class. This is the story of one such candidate, Captain Reeves Ramsey Taylor (1929- ), nominated at 18 years old and the only Black student to graduate with his class in 1953.
Captain Taylor was born in 1929 and lived most of his early life at 60 Carrington Avenue in Providence. As a young man, he took an interest in the environment. Taylor once wrote a letter to the editors of the Providence Journal about the smoke coming from factories and its effect on people and the city. He was a member of the Sea Scouts and spent two summers as a seaman on fishing vessels. This enticed Taylor to the idea of a career on the sea. He set his sights on Annapolis, the US Naval Academy in Maryland.
While a student at Hope High School, Taylor involved himself in a variety of clubs. He was a member of the band, orchestra, track team, and Omnibus club, which concerned itself with race relations. As part of the band and orchestra, Taylor played the saxophone and clarinet. While Taylor was very musically inclined, he was also into photography and had his own dark room at home. He did some work for Hope High School’s “Blue and White” yearbook as well as for the Hope Log newspaper. Taylor graduated from high school in 1947 on the honor roll and in his last year won the Anthony Medal for English composition.
After high school, Taylor attended Brown University, where he joined the Naval Reserves Officers Training Corps (NROTC), one of eight programs like it in the country initiated under the direction of Brown University alumnus, Senator Theodore Francis Green. The Navy was one of Rhode Island's largest employers at the time. In 1947, after Taylor earned the highest mark on the US Service Academies joint civil service exam, Senator Green nominated him for the US Naval Academy—Taylor was said to have a 13 point lead in his score. The year before Taylor had scored second.
After graduating from the Academy in 1953 and over a distinguished military career, Taylor flew 65 Vietnam missions from the carrier USS Constellation. He led a Minority Recruiting Program for the Navy. In 1968, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. Four years later, Taylor went on to receive the Air Medal-Strike/Flight as well as the Meritorious Service Medal. Taylor received the same Meritorious medal two years later. Taylor retired from the Navy as a Captain in February of 1975.