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William Harvey Goines, 1st Black Navy SEAL, Gone at 87, Descendant of Two Civil War Union Soldiers, Patriarch of Hip Hop Pioneering Musical Group Members & Mentee of Poet Nikki Giovanni's Father

Updated: 3 days ago

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Photos: Middle © Steve Earley/Virginian-Pilot/ASSOCIATED PRESS, left & right William Goines personal collection.


On Monday June 20, 2024 Master Chief William Harvey Goines, the 1st Black Navy SEAL transitioned from life on this earth into God's hands. He was an original inaugural member of the Navy SEAL team when it was first formed under President John F. Kennedy. Related to hip hop, within his family, Master Chief Goines was also the Goines family patriarch to two people that would go on to perform in two groups whose music would become foundational to Hip Hop, his nephew Gregory Seay, as percussionist drummer within the Isley Brothers band and niece Kim Seay, vocalist performing within Parliament Funkadelic. Also related to hip hop while growing up, Master Chief William Harvey Goines was mentored by poet laureate Nikki Giovanni's father, Goines would often visit him as a leader in the local YMCA and glean life lessons from him. The first Black Navy SEAL, the Isley Brothers, and Nikki Giovanni all attended high school together, the all Black Lockland Wayne High School during the time of Jim Crow segregated high schools. Read on to learn how he also descended from two Civil War Union soldiers, was not allowed to swim in local pools due to segregation and to learn more on the life and lineage of Master Chief Goines.


The New York Times shared that William Goines, who overcame racial obstacles in his Ohio hometown, as well as in the military, before becoming the first and only Black man to be chosen for the first Navy SEAL team when the SEALS were formed in the early 1960s, died on June 10 in Virginia Beach. He was 87.

The cause of death, in a hospital, was a heart attack, said Marie (Davis) Goines, his wife of 58 years.

Master Chief Goines, who grew up in Lockland, Ohio, a Cincinnati suburb, retired from the Navy in 1987 as a Master Chief Petty Officer. In his 32 years in uniform, which included three tours of duty during the Vietnam War, he received a Bronze Star and a Navy Commendation Medal among other decorations.

Goines went on to serve three tours in Vietnam with SEAL teams before serving five years with the Chuting Stars, a Navy Parachute Demonstration Team.

"We jumped out of everything," he told the Enquirer. "We even jumped out of balloons in France and Belgium, just experimenting."

The U.S. military started to desegregate its forces after World War II, but the ranks of leadership and elite teams remained nearly all White in 1955 when Mr. Goines enlisted after graduating from high school. At the time, the path for many Black newcomers in the Navy was often steward roles such as cooking and serving in the officers’ mess.

Someone in Master Chief Goines’s hometown of Lockland, Ohio, advised him to avoid that route if he wanted to advance in the Navy. “Whatever you do don’t accept a school for stewards,” he recalled being told, “because all you’re going to be is a servant for officers.”

Being Black, born to two Black parents that were navigating the world of Jim Crow, Goines had already faced segregation while growing up. His father, Luther Harvey Goines was a light-complexioned and at times assumed to be white but did not hide his Blackness nor his Black family and he was often fired when employers learned that he was married to a Black woman and indeed a proud Black man. Once an employer scolded his father for letting "his maid" bring his lunch to him at work.  It was his wife, the mother of William Harvey Goines, Lauretta (Turner) Goines bringing lunch to his father.  His father immediately replied the employer, "That is no maid, that's my wife - I'm a black man" & they fired Luther Harvey Goines on the spot. Authorities in Lockland enforced a strict segregation code at the public swimming pool and did not allow the future SEAL William Harvey Goines to swim in it due to him being Black. “When integration came to the area, the way I understand it, they filled the pool in with rocks and gravel so nobody could swim in it,” he said.

Overcoming that early racism, he taught himself to swim in a creek near his home along with his brother Charles anyway. Sometimes, he went to nearby Hartwell, where the town pool allowed Blacks from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. “They would blow a whistle and we’d have to get out,” William Harvey Goines told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “They would drain the pool to get it ready for the Whites.” With that same determination to be undeterred by hate or obstacles, Goines and his brother Charles went on to serve in the Navy with honor.

After 32 years of service, Goines retired in 1987 as Master Chief Petty Officer, the highest ranking an enlisted naval man can achieve. Additionally, his many commendations include the aforementioned Bronze Star, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, a Combat Action Ribbon, and the Presidential Unit Citation. In 2023, the U.S. Navy Memorial presented him with the Lone Sailor Award, to Sea Service veterans who have excelled with distinction in their respective careers during or after their service. The award recipients will join a list of men and women who have distinguished themselves by drawing upon their military experience to become successful in their subsequent careers and lives, while exemplifying the core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment..

Following his retirement, Goines remained devoted to his nation and community, first working as the police chief in the Portsmouth, Virginia, school system for more than a decade, and later volunteering to help recruit minorities into the SEALs, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

Goines Family Legacy of Fighting for & Celebrating Freedom

Within his Goines family, William Harvey Goines, was belovedly known as "Billy" or “Uncle Billy”. On September 10th, 1936 he was the born first son of Lauretta (Turner) Goines, or “Mama Laura” as the family called her and her husband Luther Harvey Goines whom they called “Daddy Luther”.

"On both his mother’s and father’s side he was a great grandson of Civil War Union soldiers, one of whom, Daniel Hamlin, had been the only Black in his newly formed unit."

Record for Daniel Hamlin's service as a Union Soldier during the Civil War in 1863, Hamlin is a maternal great grandfather of William Harvey Goines 1863 Civil War, through his mother Lauretta (Hamlin/Turner) Goines. The yellow boxes in the image show Hamlin, Daniel in the column for names and "Colored" a word used at that time for Black or African-American in the column for White or Colored, note that Hamlin was also the only man of color in his unit fighting for freedom, almost exactly 100 years later, his great grandson would unknowingly make a similar brave choice when he became the only African American man of color in the first set of Navy SEALs when they were formed under JFK in 1962.

On both his mother’s and father’s side he was a great grandson of Civil War Union soldiers, one of whom, Daniel Hamlin, had been the only Black in his own newly formed unit.  William Harvey Goines other two great grandfathers had been a 'negro' Civil War Union Soldier, John Dudley, the father of his paternal grandmother Mathilda Dudley who was born free in the South just after slavery, in that community of free Black people, she had met his paternal grandfather James Harvey Goins, a fellow descendant of free Blacks that also used intelligent cunning to remain free despite labeled as Negro or Colored over decades living in pre-Civil War Northern Tennesee and Southern Kentucky during times of human enslavement based on race. The other great-grandfather of William Harvey Goines, John Turner, father of his maternal grandfather had been enslaved human being during pre-Civil War Virginia, but left with emancipation during the time that troops were being pulled out of Southern States during 1876. John Turner went north from Virginia to Ohio is believed to have gone on to become the first Black dentist of Ohio, this great grandfather of William Harvey Goines was obviously living with the courage, drive and strength to go from enslaved in Virginia to dentist and homeowner in Lockland, OH within 15 years. John Turner's home that he built as an emancipated former enslaved person turned dentist by 1880 was the family home of William Harvey Goines as a child and was where he along with his two sisters and brothers (Beverly, Janet, Charles, and Gary) learned generosity, very deep love, laughing every day - as the Goines family says they still when they are together and it also where William Harvey Goines and his siblings learned very hard work, especially William being the oldest born.

William Harvey Goines and his siblings, Charles, Beverly, and Janet
Goines siblings (shown Right to Left), William Harvey Goines, Beverly (Goines) Seay, Charles Evan Goines, Janet (Goines) Houseton

In a 2020 interview with, Goines said that adjacent and across from the family home built by his emancipated great grandfather, dentist John Turner, the family had owned farmland and a lunch counter. "Not having a horse, I pushed the plow" said William Harvey Goines. During his childhood the family provided meals through their lunch counter, fireworks celebrations and more that otherwise would not have been available to the Black families in Lockland during his segregated childhood. 

William left Ohio and ran back to Virginia to fight for freedom, the same state from which one of his grandfathers had run from for freedom, and upon arrival he made the same brave choice to fight for freedom as his other great grandfathers had made as the only Black in his newly formed unit, the SEALs, he is celebrated for living fiercely as a highly trained, braved and decorated hero…and yet within his own bloodline he simply, only, and always loved even more fiercely than he lived. For more on the Goines family line of William Harvey Goines please contact Cherise P., his niece born through his sister Beverly (Goines) Seay, she is also a Family Historian for the Goines family. Reach out via a request on our Contact Us page here. All requests for this important special feature will be handled quickly by live personnel.

Tips / Thought-starters

  • Explore and Celebrate Legacy- Dive into the life and achievements of Master Chief William Harvey Goines. His journey from overcoming racial obstacles to becoming the first Black Navy SEAL, and his connection to the roots of hip-hop through his family, offers rich inspiration and a profound story of resilience and legacy.

  • Reflect on Historical Impact- Consider the broader impact of Goines' legacy on both military history and cultural heritage. Reflecting on how his achievements and those of his family members contributed to shaping their respective fields can offer deeper insights into the significance of diversity and representation.

  • Appreciate Contributions to Culture- Recognize the diverse contributions of the Goines family to American culture, from military service to foundational roles in hip-hop music. This appreciation can enhance understanding of the interconnectedness of different cultural and historical narratives.

Key Questions/Next Steps

  • Promote Diversity and Legacy- Reflect on how you can honor and promote the legacy of pioneers like William Harvey Goines in your own work. Consider how you can infuse your projects with stories of diverse backgrounds and achievements to foster inclusivity and recognition of underrepresented histories.

  • Engage with Historical Narratives- Actively engage with and share the stories of historical figures like Goines within your community and beyond. Embracing these narratives can help support and champion diverse voices, highlighting their significance in shaping various fields, including military history and music.

  • Support and Preserve Legacy- Extend support by connecting with communities and initiatives that preserve and celebrate the legacies of pioneers like Goines. This involvement not only fosters a sense of community but also ensures that these important stories continue to inspire and educate future generations. Remember, your actions as a creator have the potential to catalyze positive change within the Christian Rap community and beyond. Share your thoughts with us at @HipHopTruthCom.

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"Uncle Billy" Poem from the Goines family regarding William Harvey Goines & how he lived and loved even more fiercely than he lived...

So, thank you for having me. 

You see, 

I've been asked to come and tell you about the comings and goings 

of my Uncle William Harvey Goines 

and I must say that this is something that I did not desire to do today 

or any day because hopefully, obviously 

we would hope that HE would be here to say all of the things that HE is feeling and what HE is willing... 

But one thing we are reeling from is this amazing thing. 

You see, Daniel Hamlin is this man's great grandfather, 

I mean Uncle Billy’s his grandson. 

And Hamlin was born in the time before the war was one but the funny thing is, they've made the same choice, one choice to go and be those boys, one person of color, one of color in their entire regiment. 

See, Daniel Hamlin served in the UNION

as a soldier that came and went for freedom 

and decades and decades later, his great grandson, 

William Harvey Goins, or Don Harvey, 

as you naval men might call him so lovingly, 

he came and made that same choice to be the first of his kind, 

but what the world might not know is how KIND he truly was 

but every niece and nephew that I look in here, and I see his bloodLINE, 

we never had to wait in line for love or Darlin, or my Southern Belle or Yolanda, Gia, my Aretha, Lori...Lo, all nieces & dear nephews, come see me. 

I love you. 

You're always welcome. 

There's a home here, there is a place here, there is LOVE  here

And you will never, ever have to steer clear of my anger or my wrath or the dangerous skills that I might be famous for

Because my love chore,

my choice, my eager choice is to make, you know, Darlin nephew, niece, child, 

that for you I will always be a place that is loving and MILD. 

That when YOU see me it will feel like the sun has SHONE. 

Because my goal is to make sure that you have been SHOWN 

love …and peace ..and welcome and generosity… 

And that as you go about and you wear my name 

and you go from city to city 

and you live across this land 

that I have lived serving a lifetime with my hands 

as YOU will wear the name Goines

in your comings and goings 

be those children the children of the Most High 

and in that you will not have to sigh when you think about no I'm not nigh. 

I'm not near you in place. But I am always with you in spirit. 

And when you hear this name (Goines), and you hear it

remember my Darlin, I will always be the first one to cheer it,

cheering you on, now amongst your elders, I am in your great cloud of witnesses, with Charles, Beverly Janet, Gary, Mama Laura, Daddy Luther

...go on,

I am in your cloud of witnesses with them in Christ, loving, laughing and cheering you on…GO ON.., 

I love you. 

He loves us and we thank you for loving him with us. 

Thank you from the family of William Harvey Goines.



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