July 29th, 2016

usns harvey milk

The United States Navy is poised to honor gay rights activist and the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk by naming the second ship in the John Lewis class, T-AO 206, the USNS Harvey Milk.

According to Sam LaGrone, writing for the U.S. Naval Institute:

[Secretary of the Navy Ray] Mabus has said the John Lewis-class—named after civil rights activist and congressman Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)—would be named after civil rights leaders.

Other names in the class include former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren [T-AO 207] whose court ruled to desegregate U.S. schools, former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy [T-AO 208], women’s right activist Lucy Stone [T-AO 209] and abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth [T-AO 210].

Mabus has also named ships in the past for other civil rights icons, including the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ships USNS Medgar Evers (T-AKE-13) and USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE-14).

Milk came from a Navy family and commissioned in the service in 1951. He served as a diving officer in San Diego during the Korean War on the submarine rescue ship Kittiwake until 1955. Milk was honorably discharged from the service as a lieutenant junior grade.

Some people aren’t crazy about the idea of naming Navy ships after civil rights icons, and I get that, but this is a genuine sea change and sailors know about the history of the ships they serve on and where the names come from (my own ship was the fourth to be named after Commodore William Bainbridge) and help to give honor to those names.

Every ship has a nickname as well. Mine was the Billy B. I wonder what the crew of the Harvey Milk will select?

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