The Senate elected its first chaplain in 1789. On June 27, 2003, Rear Admiral Barry C. Black (Ret.) was elected the 62nd Chaplain of the Senate. He started his work on July 7, 2003. Prior to Capitol Hill, Chaplain Black served in the U.S. Navy for over twenty-seven years, ending his distinguished career as the Chief of Navy Chaplains.
In addition to opening the Senate each day in prayer, Chaplain Black provides counseling and spiritual care for Senators, their families, and staff – a combined constituency of over seven thousand people. He also meets with Senators about spiritual and moral issues, assists with research on theological and biblical questions, and facilitates discussion and reflection small groups among Senators and staff. He also conducts marriage enrichment counseling and officiates at weddings, funerals, and memorial services. Chaplain Black initiates and participates in special and seasonal observances, leads interdenominational prayer gatherings, and cultivates relationships with local clergy and leaders of humanitarian agencies. In order to stay informed of the needs of the Senate community, Chaplain Black maintains a program with a volunteer liaison in each office to assist him. A member of his staff directs this program. The Office of the Chaplain is nonpartisan, nonpolitical, and nonsectarian.
Commissioned as a Navy Chaplain in 1976, Chaplain Black’s first duty station was the Fleet Religious Support Activity in Norfolk, Virginia. Subsequent assignments include 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 Rear Admiral, his personal decorations included the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal (two medals), Meritorious Service Medals (two awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals (two awards), and numerous unit awards, campaign, and service medals.
Chaplain Black is a native of Baltimore, Maryland, and an alumnus of Oakwood College, Andrews University, North Carolina Central University, Eastern Baptist Seminary, Salve Regina University, and United States International University. In addition to earning Master of Arts degrees in Divinity, Counseling, and Management, he has received a Doctorate degree in Ministry and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Psychology. Chaplain Black has been selected for many outstanding achievements. Of particular note, he was chosen from 127 nominees for the 1995 NAACP Renowned Service Award for his contribution to equal opportunity and civil rights. He received the 2002 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.
Chaplain Barry C. Black is married to the former Brenda Pearsall of St. Petersburg, Florida. They have three sons: Barry II, Brendan, and Bradford.