USNS Medgar Evers, the newest ship in the U.S. Navy’s Lewis and Clark-class of dry cargo/ammunition ships operated by civilian mariners working with Military Sealift Command, was christened Nov. 12 during a morning ceremony at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego.
With the traditional words, “I christen you USNS Medgar Evers,” Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of the ship’s namesake, broke the traditional bottle of champagne against the bow of the ship. Evers was launched Oct. 29 and is scheduled for delivery to MSC in spring 2012.
Designated T-AKE 13, the 689-foot ship is the latest of the Lewis and Clark-class and named in honor of slain civil rights leader and Army veteran Medgar Wiley Evers, who is especially remembered for his efforts to end segregation at the University of Mississippi in the 1950s and for his opposition to Jim Crow laws in the 1960s. Evers was appointed Mississippi’s first NAACP field officer in 1954 and held the position until his assassination in the front yard of his Mississippi home the night of June 12, 1963, by White Citizens’ Council and Ku Klux Klan member Byron De La Beckwith. Evers’ murder, which occurred only hours after President John F. Kennedy delivered a televised, pro-civil rights speech, was mourned nationally.
“This technological marvel will carry the strong name of Medgar Evers, as well as the amazing spirit and expertise of the American people, across oceans and seas to every corner of the world,” said Navy Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, commander, MSC, to an audience of more than 1,000 people who braved the rainy morning to attend the event. Ceremony attendees included the Evers family, NAACP and other civil rights leaders from around the country, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown, distinguished guests from the U.S. military and maritime industry and NASSCO employees who built the ship.
“USNS Medgar Evers and its MSC civil service mariner crew will be indispensable to the Navy by daily performing the many tasks required to keep our combat fleets on station, ready to face any aggressor, anywhere in the world,” said Buzby.
USNS Medgar Evers is the 13th of 14 projected dry cargo/ammunition ships built for use by MSC’s Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force and Maritime Prepositioning Force.
Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force ships deliver ammunition, food, fuel and other supplies to U.S. and allied ships at sea, enabling the Navy to maintain a worldwide forward presence. Maritime Prepositioning Force ships are continuously deployed to strategic locations worldwide, carrying U.S. Marine Corps cargo ready for rapid delivery to Marines ashore.
“This type of ship is the glue that holds the Navy together,” said guest speaker Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. “Ships such as the USNS Medgar Evers allow us to remain forward deployed by providing ammunition, fuel and supplies to our ships around the world.”
“This is truly a wonderful day, one that will go down in the history books and one that will remain in our hearts forever,” said Evers-Williams in her remarks to the crowd.
MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.