USNS John Lewis (T-AO 205)

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On January 6, 2016, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that the first ship of the next generation of fleet replenishment oilers (T-AO 205) would be named USNS John Lewis after the Civil Rights Movement hero and current U.S. Representative of Georgia's 5th Congressional District.

“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,” Mabus said.

“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.”

During his tenure as Secretary of the Navy, Mabus named 86 ships, some of them after other civil rights and workers rights icons, including the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ships USNS Medgar Evers (T-AKE-13) 

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This Ron Reeves cover uses the publicity group photo in the cachet to commemorate the naming ceremony for USNS John Lewis (T-AO 205) and postmarked January 6, 2016, in Washington, D.C.  John Lewis is in the photo's center behind the flag's stars.

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Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, left, speaks with U.S. Rep. John Lewis before the ship-naming ceremony in Washington.

General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) is building the new fleet of replenishment oilers for U.S. Navy ships and laid the keel on the first ship of the class (John Lewis T-AO 205) in a ceremony on May 13, 2019, in San Diego, California.  The keel is the chief steel piece along the entire length of the bottom of a ship.

During the ceremony at the NASSCO yard, U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-Ga.), the ship’s namesake, and Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actress Alfre Woodard, the ship’s sponsor, etched their initials into the keel plate.

“For the U.S. Navy and former Secretary Ray Mabus to see fit to honor me in this way is unreal and almost unimaginable,” Lewis said in a statement released by his office. “I only try to do what is fair, what is right, and what is just and get in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. This class of ships pays tribute to the powerful contribution each and every participant in the struggle for civil rights and social justice has made to help build a true democracy in America.”

Consistent with Lewis’s commitment to non-violence, the statement from his office pointed out that the John Lewis class of ships are not combat vessels, but instead serve the vital role of replenishing fuel for ships at sea, serving as part of the Navy’s Combat Logistics Force operated by the Military Sealift Command. The John Lewis-class will also honor other civil rights figures including assassinated San Francisco politician and gay activist Harvey Milk; Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, whose court ruled to desegregate schools; women's rights activist Lucy Stone; former presidential candidate and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy; and abolitionist and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth.

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In this January 6, 2016, file photo, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., wears a hat bearing the name of a fleet replenishment oiler named after him during a ceremony with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Capitol Hill in Washington.

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Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) addresses attendees at the keel laying for his namesake ship, Military Sealift Command’s newest fleet replenishment oiler, USNS John Lewis during a ceremony at the General Dynamics NASSCO Shipyard in San Diego.  Military Sealift Command photo.

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Keel laying cover by Rich Hoffner

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Another keel laying cover by Rich Hoffner

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Keel laying cover by DWG Cachets