Rep. John Lewis Initiates Construction On Namesake Navy Oiler
USNS John Lewis is being built by General Dynamics Nassco in San Diego and on Monday the Congressman from Georgia was in town to formally kick off its construction.
"John Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights — protecting civil liberties and building what he calls the beloved community," said President of General Dynamics NASSCO Kevin Graney.
The U.S. Navy’s latest class of oilers is being named after Lewis.
"If someone would have told me when I was growing up in rural Alabama — during the height of the civil rights movement — that one day I would have a series of ships named after me I would have said, 'you’re crazy,'" Lewis said.
The first ship in the oiler fleet is named the USNS John Lewis and is sponsored by actress Alfre Woodard. Lewis and Woodard were at NASSCO's shipyard Monday for a keel laying ceremony. Lewis also welded his initials on a steel plate that will go on the ship.
Lewis hopes that when future generations see his name on the ship they will look back at his fight for civil rights.
"See what I tried to do as a teenager and in my 20s and my 30s," Lewis said. "To make America better and to make our world better."
Lewis said the diversity of the crew building the ship is inspiring.
"They’re black, they're white, they’re Latino, they’re Asian American, they’re Native American — if people can come together and build a ship to travel the sea, why we can’t come together as a people?" Lewis said.
Construction of USNS John Lewis is scheduled for completion in late 2020.