2018: Peter Gravett

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and raised in San Pedro, California, Major General (Retired) Peter J. Gravett has devoted his professional career to the service of others, and continues to lead tirelessly in retirement on behalf of veterans, children, the homeless, and other vulnerable populations in our communities, while staying connected on personal, state and national levels.

Gravett says with a smile, “My life and career have been non-traditional.”

Gravett’s late father set the example of military service as an enlisted soldier in a Tuskegee Airman’s unit, the legendary African-American aviators who served in World War II. Peter Gravett is one of 12 children, eight of whom served in the military. His wife Blanche, a retired educator, is also a Colonel (Retired) in the Army National Guard.

Gravett’s family was among many who migrated to the Harbor Area to work on Terminal Island building ships under military contracts in the 1940s. Gravett’s mother also worked in a historic San Pedro maritime industry, taking long shifts in the canneries of the fishing fleets.

Gravett and his siblings were part of the fabric of San Pedro attending school, playing sports, and working jobs outside of the home. Gravett remembers selling newspapers at the old Ferry building. He competed in track and football, graduating from San Pedro High School, enlisting in the then-segregated Army National Guard.

Reflecting on historic connections, Gravett noted that the SS Lane Victory, one of few surviving ships built at Terminal Island and now ported in San Pedro, is named for Lane College, an historically black college which was originally founded as a high school for black youths in Jackson, Tennessee by Methodist Bishop Isaac Lane in 1882.

Concurrent to his service in the Army National Guard, Gravett served for more than 22 years with the Los Angeles Police Department in investigations and support services. He was awarded the LAPD’s Medal of Valor for saving the life of a teenage boy who had been attacked by a mob outside the L.A. Coliseum. Upon retiring from the LAPD, Gravett returned to full-time duty in the US Army, serving another 20 years as a commissioned officer.

While serving in the LAPD, and more than 40 years in the National Guard and the Army, Gravett earned an undergraduate degree in criminology from California State University, Long Beach, and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Southern California. During this time he also earned executive diplomas from the University of Virginia and from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Gravett is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College and the FBI National Academy.

During his service with the US Army, Gravett’s commands included company, battalion and brigade levels. He also held key staff assignments at the same levels including serving as Division Chief of Staff. Gravett was posted to numerous countries including Central Europe, Western Europe, Asia and Central America. Throughout his career, Gravett has been presented with more than 20 awards and decorations including the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit.

Peter Gravett served as commanding general of the 40th Infantry Division from 1999 to 2002. He retired as a major general, the first African-American to become a division commander in the Guard’s 225-year history.

Upon retiring from the military, Gravett served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Gravett and Associates, a homeland security consulting firm, and as a principal with Traiden Global Solutions, an emergency preparedness consulting firm.

Gravett was selected by the Assistant Secretary of Defense in 2006 to be the state chair for the Southern California Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Committee. He served until 2009.

Governor Jerry Brown appointed Gravett to his cabinet as Secretary of Veteran Affairs, also known as CalVet, in April of 2011. The veteran population in California represents approximately 8.6% of the total veteran population in the Unites States. About 1.79 million veterans plus their families reside in California, more veterans than any other state including Texas or Florida. Gravett retired in December 2014.

Gravett’s post active-military affiliations include the American Legion, AMVETS, the Military Order of World Wars, The Military Officers Association of America, 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association (Buffalo Soldiers), Association of the United States Army, National Association of Black Military Officers, National Guard Associations of the United States and California, Southern California Advisory Council (Retired Officers), 40th Infantry Division Association. He holds an honorary membership with the Sergeants Major Association and the Orange County Chapters of the Chosin Few.

Over the years, Gravett has served a number of organizations dedicated to the safety and welfare of citizens:

  • President of the Los Angeles Mayor’s Veterans Advisory Council
  • Bob Hope USO at LAX Board
  • Governor’s Homeland Security Advisory Committee
  • Mayor’s Homeland Security Advisory Group
  • Area Maritime Security Committee
  • Los Angeles County Terrorism Early Warning Group
  • CalVet REN (Habitat for Humanity)

Gravett is a member of The Fall Gathering—an organization of retired African-American flag officers—and Mission: Readiness, a group of retired generals and admirals that advocate for early childhood education, after-school and summer learning, obesity prevention, improved transportation, and improved attendance. 

As a longtime San Pedro resident, Major General Gravett maintained connections to his community, including affiliations with:

  • Los Angeles Harbor Boys and Girls Club
  • San Pedro and Peninsula Family YMCA Board Member
  • Co-founder of Community Outreach Promoting Emergency—Preparedness (COPE-P)
  • Saint Mary’s Medical Center Board of Ambassadors
  • Long Beach VA Medical Center Board Member and Volunteer
  • Cypress College Foundation Board Member
  • San Pedro Boys and Girls Club Volunteer
  • San Pedro-Wilmington NAACP Board Member
  • New Testament Baptist Church Trustee
  • Toberman Community Center Volunteer
  • Los Angeles Veterans Court Advocate
  • Los Angeles Veterans Cemetery Advocate
  • “Adopt a Military Family Program” Advocate
  • Los Angeles Convention Center Authority Commission, President