Heroes Among Us: Comdr. Claven Williams

He was the first Albany State graduate to become a Navy aviator.
Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 7:05 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Commander Claven Williams of Doerun is an advocate for education and a trailblazer for minorities in the U.S. Navy.

“I had to deal a lot with racial issues in the Navy,” Williams said. “Helping young kids understand what they needed to do. And serving as a mentor for them.”

“Most of us don’t know that during the Vietnam War, we had a carrier that was shut down because of a race riot. And so part of the cure for that, the Chief of Naval Operations put a big lot of emphasis on recruiting qualified minorities to go into officer corps. Now, we had a lot of minority enlisted personnel, but we didn’t have a lot of minorities in the officer corps. And that’s how I got caught up in it. They came to Albany State in 71, 72, and they recruited people like me,” he said.

The result was a 22-year military career. And, he was the first Albany State graduate to become a Navy aviator.

“I had only flown once in my whole life, and so to be chosen for flight school was a wake-up call for me. So I had to really come with my A-game,” Williams said.

July 1994
July 1994(WALB)

And that he did. Any adversity Williams faced, turned into an opportunity for change.

“To be able to stay afloat, normally you would have one lifebelt. It took at least two to keep me up. The bone density of African Americans is different in some ways. We just don’t float very well… The longer I stayed in, we came up with programs. One of them was called a tadpole program. Anytime a minority was selected for aviation, the Navy gave them the opportunity to come down to Pensacola and go through swimming before they got started in the academics and that’s made a big difference,” he said.

Now, that kind of advocacy continues through a passion for education and helping others.

“Just be focused. If you’re going to school, as you go through, you’re pretty much through with those phases, and you move on to the next. And that leaves a legacy, a fingerprint that people use for you to be able to qualify to get into other areas. So I tell kids all the know, be good students, have a good time, but be a good student,” Williams said.

And as his success illustrates– work hard, it’ll pay off later.

“Like I said, whatever you do, do the best you can. It comes back to you,” Williams said.