Barry C. Black

Rear Admiral (Retired)
Barry C. Black
62nd Chaplain of the United States Senate
Assumed office
July 7, 2003
Preceded by Lloyd J. Ogilvie
22nd Chief of Chaplains of the United States Navy
In office
August 2000 – August 15, 2003
Preceded by A. Byron Holderby, Jr.
Succeeded by Louis V. Iasiello
Personal details
Born (1948-11-01) November 1, 1948 (age 65)
Baltimore, Maryland
Spouse(s) Brenda Pearsall Black
(m. 1973)
Alma mater Oakwood University, Andrews University, North Carolina Central University, Palmer Theological Seminary, Salve Regina University, Alliant International University
Profession Military officer (retired), chaplain
Religion Seventh-day Adventist
Military service
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1976–2003
Rank Rear Admiral
Awards Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit Medal
Defense Meritorious Service Medal (2)
Meritorious Service Medal (2)
Navy Commendation Medal (2)
Marine Corps Commendation Medal
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Rear Admiral Barry C. Black, USN (Ret.) (born November 1, 1948) is the 62nd Chaplain of the United States Senate. He was elected to this position on June 27, 2003, becoming the first African American and the first Seventh-day Adventist to hold this office. The Senate elected its first chaplain in 1789.

He served for over 27 years as a chaplain in the United States Navy, rising to the rank of rear admiral and ending his career as the Chief of Chaplains of the United States Navy, the senior chaplain of the United States Navy Chaplain Corps. He officially retired from the Navy on August 15, 2003. [1]

Naval career

Commissioned as a Navy chaplain in 1976, Black’s first duty station was the Fleet Religious Support Activity in Norfolk, Virginia. Subsequent assignments included Naval Support Activity, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland; First Marine Aircraft Wing, Okinawa, Japan; Naval Training Center, San Diego, California; USS Belleau Wood (LHA-3), Long Beach, California; Naval Chaplains School Advanced Course, Newport, Rhode Island; Marine Aircraft Group Thirty-One, Beaufort, South Carolina; assistant staff chaplain, Chief of Naval Education and Training, Pensacola, Florida; and fleet chaplain, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Norfolk, Virginia.

As a rear admiral, his personal decorations included the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit Medal, twice awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, twice awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, and twice received the Navy Commendation Medal, and the Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and numerous unit awards, campaign, and service medals. [2]

United States Senate Chaplain

On June 27, 2003, Black was elected the 62nd Chaplain of the United States Senate. He began working in the Senate on July 7, 2003. [3]

During the 16 day United States federal government shutdown of 2013, his invocations began to garner widespread national attention. On Oct. 1, the first day of the shutdown, he prayed for divine guidance to, “strengthen our weakness, replacing cynicism with faith and cowardice with courage.” On Oct. 3, he prayed, “Save us from the madness. We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness and our pride... Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.” [4]

During his prayer, on Oct. 4, 2013, the day after officers from the U.S. Capitol Police shot and killed a woman who had used her car in an attempt to breach federal grounds, Black noted that the officers were not being paid because of the government shutdown. Like other government workers, he too is unpaid during the shutdown, stating, “I’m being remunerated from above. And that’s pretty special.” [5]On the fourth day of the shutdown, he also prayed, regarding the senators, “Remove from them that stubborn pride which imagines itself to be above and beyond criticism,” he said. “Forgive them the blunders they have committed.” [6]

On day nine, prompted by news of the delay of death benefits for military families, Black prayed, “It’s time for our lawmakers to say ‘Enough is enough'”, and asked that God, “cover our shame with the robe of Your righteousness.” On day eleven, Black prayed to, “give our lawmakers the wisdom to distinguish between truth and error... Give them a hatred of all hypocrisy, deceit and shame as they seek to replace them with gentleness, patience and truth,” he prayed.[7]

The U.S. House of Representatives, which has its own chaplain, also invited him to deliver an invocation in their Chamber.[8]


In 1995, Black was chosen from 127 nominees for the NAACP Renowned Service Award, for his contributions to equal opportunity and civil rights.

In 2002, he received the Benjamin Elijah Mays Distinguished Leadership Award from the Morehouse School of Religion. In 2004, the Old Dominion University chapter of the NAACP conferred on him the Image Award, "Reaffirming the Dream - Realizing the Vision", for military excellence. [9]


Black has an extensive educational background. He is an alumnus of Oakwood University, Andrews University, North Carolina Central University, Eastern Baptist Seminary, now known as Palmer Theological Seminary, Salve Regina University and the United States International University, now known as Alliant International University.

In addition to earning separate Master of Arts degrees in divinity, counseling, and management, he also holds two earned doctorates: a Doctor of Ministry and a Ph.D. in psychology.[10]


His autobiography, entitled "From the Hood to the Hill," was published in 2006. [11] He has explained it's title as follows:

"One of the reasons why I call my book ”From the Hood to the Hill” is because we grew up in the hood. We grew up in the toxic pathology of an inner city ghetto. There were prostitutes on the corner, there were drug pushers, there was domestic violence that you could see sitting on the steps of your – of your home. So, it was a very challenging situation. And my mother, who for a significant portion of my life was on public assistance, would often have difficulty paying the rent and ensuring that her children matriculated at Christian schools because my seven siblings and I all matriculated at Christian schools from grade 1 all the way through graduate school. So, to pull this off, many times she couldn’t pay the rent, and when you don’t pay the rent, you will be evicted. And so, three times in my life, I came home from my nice Christian school to find our furniture out on the street."[12]

Popular Culture

As a result of the attention from his invocations during the federal government shutdown, Black has been parodied on NBC's "Saturday Night Live." Playing Black during the show's, "Weekend Update" segment that aired on October 12, SNL cast member, Kenan Thompson prayed, "Lord, bless and forgive these braying jackasses." Thompson's Black prayed, "May they find themselves in a restroom stall devoid of toilet paper." [13]

When approached for a reaction, Black responded that, while he had not seen it, he was a fan of the show and did not object to the parody. "It's all in good humor," he said. "If you're doing something constructive enough that you're part of their cartoons, that's a great honor." [14]

Personal life

Black is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. His mother was a domestic and his father was a long distance truck driver "and something of a nomad." He is one of eight children.[15]

He is married to Brenda Black, née Pearsall, of St. Petersburg, Florida. They have three sons: Barry II, Brendan, and Bradford.[16]

Black is a vegetarian. He has said, "that is not something that is a test of fellowship in my church. I’m a vegetarian because I grew up that way and I believe it’s a – it’s a rather healthy lifestyle." [17]


External links

Biography portal
  • United States Senate – Barry Black
  • United States Navy Chaplain Corps – Rear Admiral Black's Remarks at His Retirement as Chief of Navy Chaplains
  • interview with Black, October 25, 2009
Military offices
Preceded by
A. Byron Holderby, Jr.
Deputy Chief of Chaplains of the United States Navy
Succeeded by
Louis V. Iasiello
Preceded by
A. Byron Holderby, Jr.
Chief of Chaplains of the United States Navy
Succeeded by
Louis V. Iasiello

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