U.S. Navy names new class of ships after civil rights hero John Lewis

The U.S. Secretary of the Navy announced January 6 that the lead ship of a new generation of fleet replenishment oilers (T-AO 205) will be named USNS John Lewis after the civil rights movement hero.

Mabus made the announcement during a ship-naming ceremony held at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, said: “As the first of its class, the future USNS John Lewis will play a vital role in the mission of our Navy and Marine Corps while also forging a new path in fleet replenishment. Naming this ship after John Lewis is a fitting tribute to a man who has, from his youth, been at the forefront of progressive social and human rights movements in the U.S., directly shaping both the past and future of our nation.”

Lewis’ dedication to the civil rights movement began in earnest while he was still a young man, when he organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 1961, he participated in the “Freedom Rides,” challenging segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South and, in 1963, Lewis was named chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) where he was responsible for organizing student activism challenging segregation.

Lewis was also a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in 1963 and led more than 600 peaceful protestors across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965.

Elected to Congress in 1986, Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls “The Beloved Community” in America.

The future USNS John Lewis will be operated by Military Sealift Command and provide underway replenishment of fuel and stores to U.S. Navy ships at sea and jet fuel for aircraft assigned to aircraft carriers. A contract will be awarded for the ship in summer 2016 and construction is expected to begin in 2018.

According to the plan of the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations, the Navy will fund four fleet oilers (T-AO(X)) beginning in FY 2016. T-AO(X) is designed to replace the aging single hull fleet oiler.