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Mississippi-native Byrd honored in...

Mississippi-native Byrd honored in Pentagon Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal exhibit

By: Frank Corder - April 29, 2024

Family members of Sherman Byrd, the first African American Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician, attend the Pentagon EOD corridor exhibit unveiling in Arlington, Va., April 23, 2024. The EOD Exhibit is the first and only exhibit of its kind in the Pentagon and represents the history, mission, culture, and tools of the Joint EOD Force. (U.S. Army photo by Christopher Kaufmann)

  • Born in Carrollton in 1930, Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate Sherman Byrd became the first black man to be an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician in the U.S. Navy.

A Mississippi-native is being honored in a first-of-its-kind exhibit now on display at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. as part of the military’s efforts to recognize the historic significance of the joint explosive ordnance disposal mission.

Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate (BMCM) Sherman Byrd, born in Carrollton, Mississippi on September 7, 1930, became the first black man to be an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician in the U.S. Navy. He graduated from EOD School in Indian Head, Maryland in 1958 after previously graduating from the Deep-Sea Diving School at Washington Navy Yard and Naval Underwater Swimmer School, in Key West, Florida.

The new Department of Defense Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) exhibit is the first and only exhibit in the Pentagon that represents the history, mission, culture and tools of the Joint EOD Force.

Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate (BMCM) Sherman Byrd at Naval Underwater Swimmer School in Key West, Florida. (Photo provided by LaToya Evans)

The U.S. Navy’s EOD Division was founded in 1941 after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Members of the EOD Division go through rigorous training to locate, identify, recover, analyze, and dispose of all ordnance types on land and underwater, including improvised, chemical, biological and nuclear.

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, Byrd joined the Navy on December 26, 1947, at the age of seventeen. Throughout his career, BMCM Byrd served on 10 ships, and supported the Secret Service in the protection of U.S. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

On April 9, 1971, at the age of 40 years, BMCM Byrd died from a heart attack following a training exercise.

The Navy dedicated the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Training and Evaluation Unit TWO facility at Fort Story, Virginia Beach, Virginia, in his honor in September 2009.

In 2022, he was also honored with a resolution in Jacksonville, Florida, where his daughter, Cynthia Byrd Conner, now lives.

“I am overjoyed to see the historic naval contributions of my father be honored at the Pentagon,” said Conner, daughter of BMCM Byrd, in a statement released to Magnolia Tribune.

Conner published a book on her father’s career disarming bombs titled “Quiet Strong” several years ago.

“While he did not bring a lot of attention to himself, he was the epitome of a ‘sea daddy,’ mentoring young sailors until they became subject matter experts,” Conner went on to say. “He led by example while performing such a dangerous job, and he did it quietly.”

About the Author(s)
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Frank Corder

Frank Corder is a native of Pascagoula. For nearly two decades, he has reported and offered analysis on government, public policy, business and matters of faith. Frank’s interviews, articles, and columns have been shared throughout Mississippi as well as in national publications. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, providing insight and commentary on the inner workings of the Magnolia State. Frank has served his community in both elected and appointed public office, hosted his own local radio and television programs, and managed private businesses all while being an engaged husband and father. Email Frank: