John Stennis

John Stennis


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John Stennis was born in Kemper County, Mississippi on 3rd August, 1901. After attending local public schools Stennis graduated from Mississippi State College in 1923. This was followed by the University of Virginia Law School and he was admitted to the bar in 1928.

A member of the Democratic Party, Stennis served in the Mississippi house of representatives (1928-32), and as district prosecuting attorney (1932-37) and circuit judge (1937-47).

Stennis was elected to the United States Senate in November, 1947, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Theodore Bilbo. He was reelected in 1952, 1958, 1964, 1970, 1976 and 1982. Stennis, was chairman of the Select Committee on Standards and Conduct and served on the Committee on Armed Services and Committee on Appropriations. John Stennis died in Jackson, Mississippi, on 23rd April, 1995.


Mississippi’s Duo: James Eastland and John Stennis

Since former Vice President Joe Biden recently recounted his experiences with old arch-segregationists James Eastland and Herman Talmadge as examples of civility in the Senate, I think Eastland would be a good subject to cover now. He also positively spoke of the late Mississippi Senator John Stennis. I already covered Talmadge in a previous post about him and his father, so I will cover Eastland and Stennis, Mississippi’s senators during the civil rights era who served alongside each other for over thirty years.

James Eastland and John Stennis, 1973.

James Eastland grew up in the overwhelmingly black and impoverished area of Mississippi known as Sunflower County. Eastland’s father, Woods, was a cotton plantation owner and had a domineering influence over his life, pushing him towards a career in politics. The environment Eastland grew up in gave him no reason to object to the South’s societal order, and the racial violence in this area could be particularly brutal as the minority whites were more desperate to hold power than elsewhere in the state. In 1941, Senator Pat Harrison succumbed to cancer and Governor Paul Johnson appointed Eastland to fill the seat and with only one brief interruption in his service he served in the Senate until 1978. He accumulated political power in the state through strong organization, excellent constituent service, and his ability to unify the Hill and Delta regions of the state, which were often at ideological odds with each other. Eastland spoke out early and often for cotton and Jim Crow. In 1944, he spoke out against the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) and accused black soldiers of being cowardly, disobedient, and deserters and had “disgraced the flag of this country” (Zwiers, 25). Although in the white southern press his stance on the FEPC was well received, his rhetoric on black soldiers was widely condemned as an appeal to prejudice. On other issues, he often voted with the Conservative Coalition, particularly on labor issues and anti-communist legislation. Although Eastland often voted for conservative domestic legislation, he proved a staunch supporter of the foreign policy of President Truman. In 1955, he became the chair of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, a post which had been previously held by Joseph McCarthy, who he had voted to censure the previous year. Eastland became vigorous in his investigations of the Communist Party and later regretted his censure vote.

Eastland was one of the leading voices in the Senate against Brown v. Board of Education (1954), desegregation, and black suffrage. While some of his colleagues from below the Mason-Dixon line couched their arguments in non-racial terms such as Sam Ervin, Eastland was unabashed in his use of racist rhetoric. He was also in a unique position to combat civil rights legislation, as he was chair of the powerful Judiciary Committee, which under him was known as the “graveyard” such legislation. This led the NAACP’s chief lobbyist Clarence Mitchell to call him a “stinking albatross around the neck of the Democratic Party” (Atkins). Although his reputation nationally was as an arch foe of civil rights and a bigot, in the Senate he was known as trustworthy and courteous. This was noted by John Averill of the Los Angeles Times, who wrote “Even those liberals who disagree most violently with Eastland paradoxically regard him with great respect and perhaps even a degree of affection” (Zwiers, 237).

During the 1960s, Eastland voted as a conservative, opposing most of the New Frontier and Great Society programs. On foreign policy, he voted against foreign aid and was one of 19 senators to vote against the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963. In 1964, Eastland expressed his opinion to President Johnson that the disappearance of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner was a publicity stunt, but they were subsequently found to have been murdered. The national outrage over the killings played a part in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a law that Eastland and other segregationists fought tooth and nail against. Eastland was a major critic of the Warren Court and not just for its civil rights decisions: he voted for two constitutional amendments aimed at overturning Warren Court rulings on legislative apportionment and school prayer. Eastland also supported Nixon’s most controversial (and unsuccessful) Supreme Court nominees, Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell, men who Nixon believed would oppose the judicial activism of the Warren Court.

In 1966, Republican Congressman Prentiss Walker challenged Eastland for reelection and charged that he was not a true conservative, but a dealmaker with unpopular Democratic presidents. He attempted to link Eastland with the Great Society, but this approach didn’t work as he was one of the Democratic Party’s most visible opponents of the Great Society and he won reelection easily. In 1972, Eastland sort of got a free ride to reelection as President Nixon wasn’t interested in backing Republican candidates who challenged conservative Democrat incumbents. In 1976, Eastland along with his colleague John Stennis pushed voters to back Jimmy Carter, and in the first time since 1956 the state voted for a national Democrat for president. Eastland and other southern senators continued to exert influence during the Carter Administration and got President Carter to fully back the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. However, 1978 would mark the end for Eastland. Although he wanted another term, it was clear that by this time the black vote had become far more influential in the state and they weren’t inclined to vote for someone who had so vociferously opposed their political participation. Despite having developed a genuine friendship with Mississippi NAACP chair Aaron Henry and secured both his and President Carter’s support for another term, at 74 he was not up for a tough primary and eventually called it quits.

Although Eastland had no regrets about his career in retirement, he nonetheless made contributions to the Mississippi NAACP, likely out of his friendship with Henry. Although this isn’t much, it isn’t nothing.

Stennis was a contrast to his predecessor, Theodore Bilbo, in that he wasn’t a demagogue. He was inclined, like Senator Sam Ervin, to couch his arguments in legalism as opposed to overt appeals to racial prejudice. This reflected his background in the legal profession, yet there is a dark story in this past. Before he was a senator, Stennis was a district attorney and in 1934 sought the death penalty for three black sharecroppers accused of murdering a prominent white farmer despite knowing their confessions had been extracted through torture. The prime evidence used against them was the confessions that prosecution witnesses admitted were extracted through brutal whippings and they were convicted. The verdict was appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled in Brown v. Mississippi (1936) that an involuntary confession extracted through police violence is inadmissible in court. The three men ended up pleading no contest to manslaughter and received prison sentences instead of risk another trial.

As a senator, Stennis was known as a major advocate of naval expansion and routinely favored expanding the military’s budget. Like all other Mississippi politicians, he signed the Southern Manifesto. Although on domestic issues he was often conservative, he staunchly opposed President Eisenhower’s efforts to enact free market reforms to agriculture, a stance common to the South. In 1960, he urged Mississippi electors to vote for John F. Kennedy, but they instead voted for conservative Democratic Senator Harry F. Byrd, who hadn’t even announced a run for president.

Stennis often opposed the initiatives of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and voted against key programs of the Great Society, such as the Economic Opportunity Act and Medicare. He also opposed every civil rights bill that came before him at this time. Stennis was quite hawkish on foreign policy, and in 1963 he was one of 19 senators to vote against the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. In 1965, the Senate adopted its first ethics code that was drafted by Stennis and he served as the first chair of the chamber’s Ethics Committee. In 1966, he voted for two constitutional amendments, one for permitting legislative districts to be based on factors other than population, and the other for permitting voluntary prayer in schools. In contrast to his stances on the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, Stennis often supported the stances of President Richard Nixon. A staunch hawk on Vietnam, he supported Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia in 1970 and his approach to the war in general. That same year, he stated in response to a Supreme Court decision on integration he would challenge candidates of the next presidential election to tell voters outside the South that “I’ll do to your schools what we’ve done to the schools in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana if I’m elected President”, predicting defeat for whoever said so (Illson). In 1972, he joined his colleague Eastland in opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, which he had opposed even in its 1953 watered-down form. In 1973, President Nixon proposed the so-called “Stennis Compromise” to special prosecutor Archibald Cox, in which instead of the Watergate tapes being publicly released, Stennis (who was known to be hard of hearing) would listen to the tapes and report a summary of what he heard. Cox’s refusal to accept prompted Nixon to order his firing, which resulted in the “Saturday Night Massacre”.

Stennis maintained a conservative record until the Carter Administration, when his record started to moderate. Despite this, he was even later in starting to vote for civil rights legislation: in 1979 and 1980 he was one of a handful of senators to oppose funding the Civil Rights Commission. Stennis finally voted for extending the Voting Rights Act in 1982, which happened to be just in time for his final reelection bid, which he won handily. It was easier for blacks to vote for him as opposed to Eastland, as he had not been a demagogue and was less vocal in his previous civil rights opposition. The following year, Stennis was one of four Senate Democrats to vote against MLK Day. On defense, he mostly supported President Reagan’s initiatives, as he backed increased spending on missiles and voted for aid to the Contras. In 1986, the Democrats won back the Senate, and Stennis served as Senate pro tempore.

Unlike his colleague James Eastland, Stennis got to serve throughout the entirety of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Although Reagan was the ultimate conservative politician, Stennis was far from on board with the agenda of him and his Republican supporters despite his conservative record during the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon Administrations. His record on domestic issues became more palatable to the Democratic leadership and his overall political record in this period could be regarded as moderate as opposed to conservative and in his final two years it could even be regarded as moderately liberal. Some examples of liberal votes include his 1986 vote to defeat Jesse Helms’s (R-N.C.) amendment killing Washington D.C.’s law prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to people with AIDS, his 1987 vote against confirming Robert Bork to the Supreme Court despite his prior support of conservative justices, and his 1988 votes against exempting religious institutions from Washington D.C.’s anti-discrimination laws for gays and lesbians, against a bill permitting the death penalty for drug lords who order murders, and against a workfare proposal for welfare. He didn’t run for reelection, having served over forty years in the Senate.

Atkins, J. Book review: ‘Big Jim Eastland’. Clarion Ledger.

Illson, M. (1970, January 16). Southern White Leaders Voice Anger and Dismay Over Integration Ruling. The New York Times.

Zwiers, M. (2015). Senator James Eastland: Mississippi’s Jim Crow Democrat. Baton Rouge: Louisiana University State Press.


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“Collectively, Black America has almost faced a nervous breakdown,” he said. “A lot of white people don’t understand how deep that cut can go.”

While the brass hasn’t spoken directly to renaming ships, Pentagon and Army leaders signaled earlier this month that they were open to a bipartisan discussion about changing the names of bases named after Confederate leaders.

SECDEF and Army secretary open to renaming posts named for Confederate generals

“The secretary of the Army is open to a bi-partisan discussion on the topic,” said an Army spokesman.

Last week, Defense Secretary Mark Esper outlined three initiatives featuring varying boards and committees that will look at improving diversity and inclusion in the military.

“While I cannot speak for these three groups of leaders who will provide recommendations to the Secretary, I would personally expect that at least one of these groups will make specific recommendations regarding the naming of bases and ships,” Christopher Garver, a Pentagon spokesman, said in an email Tuesday.

While President Donald Trump has signaled his opposition to renaming bases, lawmakers have introduced legislation that may allow such efforts to bypass the White House.

Back in the 1950s, Stennis was a signer of the so-called “Southern Manifesto,” which opposed civil rights efforts.

In 1983, he was also the only southern Democrat to vote against creating a national holiday in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Washington Post reported.

“The Stennis name on a diverse U.S. warship is not only problematic, but disgraceful,” Green wrote in “Proceedings.”

Stennis “was the heart, soul and brains of the white supremacist caucus in the 1948 Congress,” he wrote. “The Dixiecrats were the faction of the 1940s Democratic Party that consisted of malcontented southern delegates who protested the civil rights plank in the party platform, and President Harry S. Truman’s advocacy of that plank.”

As America and the Pentagon assesses whether to rename military bases like the Army’s Fort Bragg, named after a perpetually losing Confederate officer, another Navy ship, the guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville, is named after a Confederate victory during the Civil War.

CNO says no more Confederate battle flags in public spaces and work areas

The move comes as America grapples once again with racist Confederate symbols and statutes in modern-day America.

Up until recently, the warship’s official website featured a portrait that included Confederate leaders and the Confederate flag.

In his piece, Green also reflects on the irony of Stennis steaming alongside the future aircraft carrier Doris Miller, named after a Black sailor who fired 50-caliber rounds at Japanese aircraft during the Pearl Harbor attack and received the Navy Cross for his heroism aboard the battleship West Virginia.

Miller only left the West Virginia when it began to sink and pulled several shipmates out of the burning water.

He was one of the last three sailors to abandon the ship.

“When the Japanese bombers attacked my ship at Pearl Harbor I forgot all about the fact that I and other Negroes can be only messmen in the Navy and are not taught how to man an antiaircraft gun,” Miller was later quoted as saying in an article by World War II magazine.

“One sends a strong message of inclusivity, and the other an immoral and cringeworthy one,” Green wrote of the two carriers.

So if the Pentagon jettisons John C. Stennis as the name for CVN 74, for whom should the carrier be renamed?

Green thinks the ship should be deemed the USS William S. Norman, honoring a Black Navy officer who served as the minority affairs assistant to Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, the 19th chief of naval operations and an advocate for racial equality in the ranks.

“I can think of no better candidate than William S. Norman … who, according to Zumwalt, did more than anyone to improve the plight of minorities in the Navy,” Green wrote.


History

Elected to the United States Senate in 1947 with the promise to “plow a straight furrow to the end of the row,” John C. Stennis recognized the need for an organization to assist governments with a wide range of issues and to better equip citizens to participate in the political process. In 1976, Senator Stennis set the mission parameters and ushered in the development of a policy research and assistance institute which was to bear his name as an acknowledgment of his service to the people of Mississippi.

Created as a service and research arm of Mississippi State University, the John C. Stennis Institute of Government was established on February 9, 1976. Announcing its formation during a two-day Forum on Politics honoring U.S. Senators John Stennis and Margaret Chase Smith, MSU President William L. Giles outlined the Institute’s mission and goals.

According to Giles, the Institute would seek to integrate research, service, and teaching activities to improve government in the state, as well as promote the training of students who seek careers in public service.

Decades later, the Stennis Institute of Government has remained true to that initial charge. By providing meaningful, applied research to both local and state units of Mississippi government, the Institute brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to bear on real-world issues. Through its executive development programs, training opportunities, and technical assistance programs, the Institute provides support for today’s policy-makers from the courthouse to the classroom. And, by playing an active role in the development of tomorrow’s governmental leaders, the Institute is working to ensure that Mississippi’s future remains strong.

Like the majority of public servants in the State, the staff of the Institute are generalists, bringing the wide range of their experiences and talents to bear on a diverse range of issues. From political analysis and commentary to economic development activities, the topics delineated on any list of ongoing Institute projects clearly illustrate this diversity. Likewise, projects range in size and scope from specific work with Mississippi’s smallest towns to federally-funded grants with multi-state application.


USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74)

USS JOHN C. STENNIS is 1,092 feet long and towers some 20 stories above the waterline. As a self-contained city, JOHN C. STENNIS has virtually the same amenities as any American city with a comparable population. It has a daily newspaper, radio and television stations, fire department, library, hospital, general store, laundry, two barbershops and even a post office with its own zip code.

General Characteristics: Keel Laid: March 13, 1991
Launched: Nov. 11, 1993
Commissioned: Dec. 9, 1995
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding Co., Newport News Va.
Propulsion system: two nuclear reactors
Main Engines: four
Propellers: four
Blades on each Propeller: five
Aircraft elevators: four
Catapults: four
Arresting gear cables: four
Length, overall: 1,092 feet (332.85 meters)
Flight Deck Width: 257 feet (78.34 meters)
Area of flight deck: about 4.5 acres (18211.5 m 2 )
Beam: 134 feet (40.84 meters)
Draft: 38.4 feet (11.7 meters)
Displacement: approx. 100,000 tons full load
Speed: 30+ knots
Planes: approx. 85
Crew: Ship: approx. 3,200 , Air Wing: 2,480
Armament: two Mk-57 Mod 3 Sea Sparrow launchers, three 20mm Phalanx CIWS Mk 15, two Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Systems
Homeport: Bremerton, Wash.

This section contains the names of sailors who served aboard USS JOHN C. STENNIS. It is no official listing but contains the names of sailors who submitted their information.

USS JOHN C. STENNIS Cruise Books:

  • If lined up end-to-end, the bed mattresses would stretch more than nine miles
  • Other intersting figures:
    • Number of telephones: 2,000
    • Tons of structural steel: about 60,000 tons
    • Sheets: 28,000
    • Pillow Cases: 14,000

    Accidents aboard USS JOHN C. STENNIS:

    USS JOHN C. STENNIS comes alongside the USS INDEPENDENCE (CV 62) March 30, 1998, in the Arabian Gulf where both ships were deployed in support of UN-mandated sanctions against Iraq and enforcement of the "No-Fly Zone" under OPERATION SOUTHERN WATCH.

    USS JOHN C. STENNIS Patch Gallery:

    Click here for more USS JOHN C. STENNIS Patches.

    USS JOHN C. STENNIS Image Gallery:

    Click here to view more photos.

    The photos below were taken by Ian Johnson on April 29, 2002, and show the USS JOHN C. STENNIS anchored in Gage Roads off the port of Fremantle, Australia. This was the carrier's third visit to Western Australia

    The photos below were taken by Ian Johnson on September 30, 2004, and show the USS JOHN C. STENNIS anchored in Gage Roads off the port of Fremantle, Australia. This was the carrier's fourth visit to Western Australia

    The photos below were taken by me on March 23, 2010, and show the USS JOHN C. STENNIS at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, Calif.. The first two photos show her just a few hours before departing for Bremerton, Wash. The third photo shows the carrier during sunset while getting underway.

    The photos below were taken by me on May 12, 2012, and show the USS JOHN C. STENNIS at her homeport of Bremerton, Wash.

    The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the USS JOHN C. STENNIS at Bremerton, Wash., on October 13, 2017.

    The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the USS JOHN C. STENNIS during Fleet Fest 2019 at Naval Base Norfolk, Va., on October 19, 2019.


    John C. Stennis

    John C. Stennis (1901-1995) was born in the Kipling community in Kemper County and lived in DeKalb. As a circuit judge, he heard many cases in this courthouse. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1947 and reelected six times, Stennis served as president pro tempore during the 100th Congress and was chairman of the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees. He also wrote the first Code of Ethics for the Senate. In 1993, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was named the USS John C. Stennis in his honor.

    Erected 2015 by Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

    Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Waterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Mississippi State Historical Marker Program series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1947.

    Location. 32° 46.019′ N, 88° 39.088′ W. Marker is in De Kalb, Mississippi, in Kemper County. Marker is on Bell Street west of Main Avenue (State Route 39), on the right when traveling west. Located at the Kemper County Courthouse. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 123 Main Avenue, De Kalb MS 39328, United States of America. Touch for directions.

    Other nearby markers. At least 6 other markers are within 13 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Rueben Kemper (within shouting distance of this marker) DeKalb (approx.

    0.6 miles away) Chapel Hill Church and Spring (approx. 9.4 miles away) Electric Mills (approx. 10.9 miles away) Summerville Institute (approx. 12.7 miles away) Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek (approx. 12.8 miles away).

    Also see . . . Wikipedia article on John C. Stennis. (Submitted on October 6, 2019, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)


    The Case for Renaming the USS John C. Stennis

    While the debate about renaming military bases named for Confederates rages throughout the land, the West Wing, the Pentagon, and in the halls of Congress, I want to bring the discussion closer to the waterfront. Since the military and defense leaders seem to be amenable to hearing what the “dark-blue” and “dark-green” soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have to say, and since most of them are not in a position to speak frankly, I thought I would make an attempt. This will be an uncomfortable conversation—one I only committed to writing on after a good deal of research—and I ask readers to conduct their own research before weighing in or dismissing the idea out of hand.

    If South Carolina Senator Strom Thurman and Alabama Governor George Wallace were the face and voice of the Southern Dixiecrats, then Mississippi Senator John C. Stennis was the heart, soul, and brains of the white supremacist caucus in the 1948 Congress. The Dixiecrats were the faction of the 1940s Democratic Party that consisted of malcontented southern delegates who protested the civil rights plank in the party platform, and President Harry S. Truman’s advocacy of that plank. The blinding of Army Sergeant Isaac Woodard Jr. by a South Carolina policeman in 1946 strengthened Truman’s resolve.

    Stennis, on the other hand, almost singlehandedly derailed the cultural changes being attempted by then-Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, as Zumwalt detailed in his memoir, On Watch. Stennis was vehemently opposed to black equality, and spent his entire career, both as a Mississippi prosecutor, judge, and state senator attempting to ensure it did not happen. He ordered congressional subcommittee hearings on “Permissiveness” in the Navy, led by Louisiana Senator Eddie Hebert, in a thinly veiled attempt to thwart Zumwalt’s initiatives. Thurman, Wallace, and Stennis all signed the infamous Southern Manifesto—a document written in 1956 in opposition to racial integration in public places—as did all Southern Democrats from the former Confederate states.

    During a meeting on the topic, requested by Zumwalt, Stennis told Zumwalt, “Blacks had come down from the trees a lot later than we did.” The subcommittee ignored the mountain of evidence Zumwalt presented that showed systematic and pervasive racism in the Navy. Zumwalt still prevailed, however, with his seminal directive, Z-Gram Number 66, on equal opportunity, but the battle continues.

    Stennis’s record championing white supremacy is long. Matthew Yglesias wrote a 26 November 2007 Atlantic article, “The White Supremacist Caucus,” which identified Stennis as being ahead of his time as an advocate of torture:

    As a prosecutor, he sought the conviction and execution of three black men whose murder confessions had been extracted by torture. The convictions were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case of Brown v. Mississippi (1936) that banned the use of evidence obtained by torture. The transcript of the trial indicates Stennis was fully aware of the methods of interrogation, including flogging, used to gain confessions.

    While I knew this about Stennis when I wrote my memoir (I included it), Black Officer, White Navy, I did not know enough. Jesse Curtis’s April 2014 thesis, Awakening the Nation: Mississippi Senator John C. Stennis, the White Countermovement, and the Rise of Colorblind Conservatism, 1947–1964, was an eye-opening read for me. One need only read the first 20 pages to understand why the Stennis name on a diverse U.S. warship is not only problematic, but disgraceful. That he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan, whose own racist beliefs were revealed in a recent tape recording from the Nixon Presidential Library, is instructive. Historian Timothy Naftali uncovered the tape, in which Reagan used racist language to denounce African diplomats: “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!” The disclosure led to Reagan’s daughter publicly asking for forgiveness for her deceased father, acknowledging that the comments were racist. I have no problem with Ronald Reagan’s name on a warship—there is no evidence that he ever explicitly acted on these views—but Stennis is in a different category altogether. Curtis’s thesis makes clear this should not stand.

    I believe the military is right to seriously consider removing the names of Confederate soldiers from military bases and facilities. The United States is the only nation to my knowledge that erected monuments and bestowed honors on the very people responsible for the death of many thousands of loyal soldiers and sailors in a fight to retain their states’ right to enslave millions of people of African descent. I can recall vividly and with much emotion the day I boarded the USS Gettysburg (CG-64) as the in-port training department head for Destroyer Squadron Eight in Mayport, Florida, saluted the ensign on the fantail, and turned to see the officer of the deck standing beside a display of the U.S. flag and the Confederate battle flag, awaiting my salute. For the first and only time in my career, I failed to render the proper salute, instead simply walking past without a word or gesture of any kind. I could not do it.

    I often have thought about what it must be like for a minority sailor to receive orders to and serve in the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). Most sailors—and Navy leaders—have little idea of his background, but the Navy, as an institution, has a moral obligation to know. And, it should act. I recommend the Navy formally reconsider whether it is appropriate for a capital ship to bear the name of an avowed, lifelong white supremacist with a record of condoning torture of U.S. citizens.

    I received a call recently from the widow of a respected and accomplished Navy surface warfare captain, who tearfully recounted to me the story of how her black husband called her, and through tears of anguish and despair, told her that his reporting senior had told him that he would not be recommending him for early promotion to rear admiral because he had to take care of “his people,” meaning “white people.” This distraught captain was black. Stennis would have approved. His widow said it was only the second time she had ever seen her proud warrior husband shed tears. She also recounted that many black spouses of fellow naval officers had shed similar tears in her presence on behalf of their husbands as they recounted similar stories of discrimination and betrayal. I lived it and wrote about it. Admiral Zumwalt saw this firsthand, and it changed him some who worked for him say it traumatized him. He acted to make changes, in the face of massive resistance, both inside and outside the lifelines, and I challenge today’s leaders to match his courage.

    If the Navy is serious about listening to minority sailors and officers, I hope it will consider the optics of the future USS Doris Miller (do you recognize the name—look it up!) and the current John C. Stennis steaming together or tied up in the same basin. One sends a strong message of inclusivity, and the other an immoral and cringeworthy one. I started my career in Charleston, South Carolina—Senator Thurmond’s home state—under the command of an officer whose dashboard was plastered with stickers honoring the Confederate cause. He damaged my career early, but I recovered. I ended my career decades later in Florida under a commanding officer and subsequent immediate superior in command who was born and raised in Alabama—Governor Wallace’s home state. He took care of “his” people too, including a blatant and unstable racist who succeeded him and who professionally and psychologically abused me until I filed a well-documented five-page discrimination complaint against him (that illegally went unprocessed) to get his attention. They damaged my career, helped end it, and I am still in recovery, decades later. As I read the derisive and racist LinkedIn comments (and responded to some of them) about the CNO’s decision to ban the Confederate flag, it became clear that this will not be a seamless transition from venerating the divisive symbols of the past to a more inclusive Navy.

    I have thought long and hard about what I would have done had I received orders to the John C. Stennis when I was on active duty. I can imagine some shipmates smirking at me during Black History Month and saying, “You know Stennis was a diehard racist, right?” I know minority sailors who served in her, and I cannot imagine doing so myself. My family has had skin in the game for generations: My grandfather served in World War II and died in a VA hospital in 1946. My father served in both Korea in the Army and on board eight ships in the Navy, including four tours to Vietnam. Today’s sailors, Marines, and officers should not have to make the psychologically damaging choice of speaking up or serving in silence in a vessel named for an ardent segregationist and white supremacist, who condoned beating the skin off black people until they either confessed or died. It is incompatible with American values and the recent directives from the Navy to expect for them to have to do so.

    When the Army banned the Confederate flag from bases in Vietnam, because the Army was “tearing itself apart,” I am sure that John C. Stennis was one of the powerful Southern voices in Congress and elsewhere that forced the Army to reverse that decision. I hope that there are powerful voices in the Department of Defense, the Navy, and Congress today that can rectify this decision, because it is the right thing to do. Show the sailors and officers that this current willingness to listen will be followed up with concrete, lasting actions that make for a more cohesive, diverse, and stronger fighting force. I can think of no better candidate than William S. Norman for whom to rename the John C. Stennis, Admiral Zumwalt’s minority affairs assistant, who, according to Zumwalt, did more than anyone to improve the plight of minorities in the Navy.


    Latest U.S. Military News

    “I often have thought about what it must be like for a minority sailor to receive orders to and serve” on the Stennis, Green wrote. “Most sailors — and Navy leaders — have little idea of his background, but the Navy, as an institution, has a moral obligation to know.”

    Clemons said symbols are “very powerful,” and an aircraft carrier’s name is one.

    “They’re often motivational to people. In this instance the kind of inspiration I would not expect to be all that positive.”

    It was President Ronald Reagan who announced Stennis as the namesake for an aircraft carrier, telling him, according to the ship’s website, “when I consider your career, there is a certain comparison that comes to mind. In troubled places, you’ve brought calm resolve, like one of the great fighting ships you’ve done so much to obtain for the Navy serene, self-possessed but like a great ship of the line, possessed of a high sense of purpose.”

    In January, at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony, the Navy announced that its newest aircraft carrier would be named after Doris Miller, who manned anti-aircraft guns during the Pearl Harbor attack and was the first black American awarded the Navy Cross. He died two years later aboard the USS Liscome Bay when it sunk in the South Pacific.


    No more 'Stennis flag': Creator removes name from popular alternative to Mississippi flag

    As debate about Mississippi's state flag rages on, many residents have adopted the Stennis flag as their personal state flag. It appears on front porches, bumper stickers and is even an option on Mississippi's license plates. But the creator of the flag has asked that it be renamed, noting the attachment of her last name could evoke pain and discomfort.

    Laurin Stennis, who first created the flag alternative six years ago, announced on social media Sunday that she is stepping away from being the name behind the flag, writing, "In a continued effort to be of service, I will be stepping away from this endeavor as I understand the hurt and potential harm my last name may cause."

    Stennis is the granddaughter of former U.S. Sen. John C. Stennis. Stennis, who died in 1995, was a staunch segregationist during a long career in Washington, though later in life he voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act.

    The name has now been changed to the "Hospitality Flag." Mississippi is known as the "Hospitality State." The flag has 19 blue stars in the center on a white background, circling a larger blue star, representing Mississippi as the 20th state. Red vertical bars are on either side of the stars. Stennis previously told the Clarion Ledger the bars represent Mississippians' &ldquopassionate differences&rdquo on the flag issue.

    The fight to change the flag has drawn ire in the state from staunch opponents who point to the 2001 state election where 65% of voters elected to keep the current flag. However, current Mississippi residents 35 and younger weren't eligible to vote in 2001.

    (Story continues after photo gallery.)

    For years, the state flag has drawn national negative attention. Most recently, the SEC said championships will not be played in Mississippi until the flag is changed. In a step further, the NCAA said as long as the flag with the Confederate emblem flies, Mississippi will not be eligible to host any postseason event.

    The Mississippi Legislature is still in session and could vote to change the flag, but doing so would require a suspension of the rules. While lawmakers in both chambers &mdash including some top Republicans &mdash support changing the flag, a Senate Concurrent Resolution that would allow lawmakers to take a vote on the flag appears to have stalled.

    House Minority Leader Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, has previously said the flag designed by Laurin Stennis should be adopted by the Legislature, though it would be referred to as simply the Mississippi flag.

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    Mississippi History Timeline

    Nellah Massey Bailey was elected state tax collector and was re-elected in 1951 and 1955. This office was abolished by the Legislature in January 1964.

    1947: John Stennis elected to U.S. Senate seat vacated by death of Senator Bilbo

    He ran against five other candidates, including two sitting congressmen—John Rankin and William Colmer. Stennis was reelected in 1952, 1958, 1964, 1970, 1976, and 1982, and remained a strong presence within the Senate until 1989. Stennis was the first chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and wrote the first Senate ethics code. The John C. Stennis Space Center, the John C. Stennis National Student Congress, the USS John C. Stennis, and the John C. Stennis Lock and Dam are all named in his honor.

    1947: B. B. King hitchhikes to Memphis to pursue career in music

    Born near Itta Bena on September 16, 1925, King was interested in music from an early age. Less than two years after he arrived in Memphis, King had his own radio show on WDIA and was performing regularly. In 1951 he recorded his first hit, “3 O’Clock Blues.”


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Comments:

  1. Betlic

    Is taken away

  2. Krocka

    Who knows it.

  3. Elric

    It goes beyond all limits.

  4. Jock

    butar, a fairy tale for children ...........



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