Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate (BMCM) Sherman Byrd was the first African American Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician. He graduated from the Naval School of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (NAVSCOLEOD) in Indian Head, Maryland with Class 04B-58 in 1958. BMCM Byrd was well liked and respected in the community. He was a model Navy EOD Technician. Byrd routinely worked with the United States Secret Service helping to protect four Presidents of the United States, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson and President Richard Nixon. On September 25, 2009, the Navy dedicated the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Training Evaluation Unit Two facility at Fort Story, Virginia Beach, Virginia, in his honor.
BMCM Sherman Byrd was born in Carrollton, Mississippi (Carol County) on September 7, 1930. He was the youngest of five children born to Loyd and Annie Lloyd Byrd. His parents were sharecroppers. Byrd completed the 8th grade at Stone Street High School in Greenwood, Mississippi. He joined the Navy on December 26, 1947 at the age of seventeen. He completed Boot Camp in San Diego, CA and then served on four ships, advancing from Seaman Recruit to Boatswain’s Mate Second Class. BM2 Byrd graduated from Deep Sea Diving School at the Washington Navy Yard in April, 1955 and was assigned to the USS Petrel (ASR 14), as a First Class Diver. BM2 Byrd graduated from the elite Naval School Underwater Swimmers, Key West, Florida in July, 1957. He continued to excel in his naval career and graduated from NAVSCOLEOD, Indian Head, Maryland with Class 04B-58, in June, 1958. He was the first African American to complete Explosive Ordnance Disposal training.
After graduation, he went back to sea, serving on two carriers. His first shore duty was in October, 1959, at Seal Beach, CA where he was promoted to Boatswain’s Mate First Class. BM1 Byrd returned to sea duty onboard the USS Wrangell (AE 12), advancing to Chief Boatswain’s Mate in May, 1963. BMC Byrd became an instructor at NAVSCOLEOD in February, 1964. Three years later in November, 1967, he advanced to Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate. BMCS Byrd took orders to EODGRULANT at Fort Story in August, 1968. He was promoted to Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate in August, 1969. He died on April 9, 1971 from a heart attack following a physical training exercise. BMCM Sherman Byrd was forty years old.
He married the former Louise Arnold of Charleston, SC who is now deceased. They had eight children, Sherlyn Byrd Walker (deceased), Sherman Byrd Jr. (deceased), Azelle Byrd Hunt, Yolanda Byrd Blount, the twins Sandra Byrd Watkins, and Cynthia Byrd Conner, Andre Byrd, and Laurie Byrd.