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Navy christens USNS John Lewis on anniversary of civil rights icon’s demise

“It’s fitting that we honor John Lewis with this formidable ship, because John Lewis was a warrior. One of the mottos of the Navy is ‘Semper Fortis’ — ‘Always Courageous’ — and John Lewis was indeed always courageous,” stated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who lead a congressional delegation to the occasion on Saturday. “This ship will be a beacon to the world reminding all who see it of the persistence and courage of John Lewis.”

Lewis — the son of sharecroppers who survived a brutal beating by police throughout a landmark 1965 march in Selma, Alabama — served because the US consultant for Georgia’s fifth Congressional District for greater than three many years and was extensively seen as an ethical conscience of Congress due to his decades-long embodiment of the nonviolent battle for civil rights. The Democrat’s passionate oratory was backed by a protracted report of motion that included, by his depend, greater than 40 arrests whereas demonstrating in opposition to racial and social injustice.

Members of the late congressman’s household had been additionally in attendance Saturday.

“On behalf of my beloved, uncle, the entire Lewis family, we’re humbled and grateful for the christening of the USNS John Lewis,” stated Marcus Tyner, a nephew of Lewis. “We all agree that what is most important at this critical time, and what will please my uncle most is the passing of the John Lewis Voting Rights Bill.”

The 742-foot-long vessel is designed to switch gasoline to US Navy provider strike group ships working at sea, in accordance with the Navy.

“Civil Service Mariners will operate this ship with the skill, resolve and courage displayed by John Lewis. With this ship, our naval service is better positioned to meet the challenges that lie ahead,” stated Rear Admiral Michael Wettlaufer, commander of Military Sealift Command.

Future John Lewis-class oilers will likely be named for different distinguished civil rights leaders Harvey Milk, Earl Warren, Robert F. Kennedy, Lucy Stone and Sojourner Truth, in accordance with the Navy.

The sponsor of the ship, the individual requested as Navy custom to Christen the ship, was actress and activist Alfre Woodard.

“Like the man himself, the presence of the USNS John Lewis, may it inspire justice as a mission, peace as a goal, and compassion as a way of moving. This lady sales in a legacy as deep as the waters she traverses,” she stated.

A follower and colleague of Martin Luther King Jr., Lewis participated in lunch counter sit-ins, joined the Freedom Riders in difficult segregated buses and — on the age of 23 — was a keynote speaker on the historic 1963 March on Washington.

At age 25, Lewis helped lead a march for voting rights on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, the place he and different marchers had been met by closely armed state and native police who attacked them with golf equipment, fracturing Lewis’ cranium. Images from that “Bloody Sunday” shocked the nation and galvanized help for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into regulation by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Once in Washington, he targeted on preventing in opposition to poverty and serving to youthful generations by bettering schooling and well being care. He additionally co-wrote a collection of graphic novels concerning the civil rights motion, which gained him a National Book Award.

In 2011, after greater than 50 years on the entrance strains of the civil rights motion, Lewis acquired the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, positioned spherical his neck by then-President Barack Obama.

Lewis died on July 17, 2020, after a six-month battle with most cancers. Celebrations of Lewis’ life passed off throughout the nation on Saturday.

CNN’s Rachel Janfaza, Suzanne Malveaux, Lauren Fox, Faith Karimi and Brandon Griggs contributed to this report.

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