William Murray Black bigraphy, stories - United States Army Chief of Engineers

William Murray Black : biography

December 8, 1855 - September 24, 1933

William Murray Black (December 8, 1855 – September 24, 1933) was career officer in the United States Army, noted for his ability to organize and train young engineers.


Black, born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, graduated first in the United States Military Academy class of 1877 and was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers. From 1886 to 1891 Black headed the Jacksonville District, and in 1897-98 he was the Engineer Commissioner on the governing board of the District of Columbia. In the Spanish-American War, he was Chief Engineer, 3d and 5th Army Corps. As Chief Engineer under Generals William Ludlow and Leonard Wood (1899–1901), and six years later as advisor to the Cuban Department of Public Works, he modernized Havana's sanitary system. As Commandant of the Army Engineer School (1901–03), Black moved it from Willets Point, New York, to Washington Barracks, D.C. After his return from Cuba in 1909, he was Northeast Division Engineer and chairman of a board to raise the battleship . Devoted to training young engineer officers in the art of war, General Black's greatest responsibility came as Chief of Engineers during World War I in mobilizing and training some 300,000 engineer troops for a wide range of military engineering tasks. For this work he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. He retired October 31, 1919, and died in Washington, D.C.

The , launched July 1943, was named in his honor.

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