USS Stennis

Controversy Over John C. Stennis Aircraft Carrier Name

Some debate the renaming of U.S. military aircraft carrier U.S.S. John C. Stennis

NBCUniversal, Inc.

There's a new debate on the heels of the push to rename U.S. military bases named after confederate leaders -- Should a U.S. aircraft carrier named after a U.S. senator who fought against civil rights be renamed?

USS John C. Stennis, once homeported in San Diego, has a rich naval history but if you look at the legacy of the senator it’s named after, some would say his name should no longer be attached to the Navy vessel.

“John C. Stennis was an avowed white supremacist,” said Shawn VanDiver, Co-Founder of the San Diego Chapter of the Truman National Security Project, who added, “Whose legacy is voting against the civil rights act, voting against desegregation.”

A recent article on the non-partisan U.S. Naval Institute website by retired Lieutenant Commander Reuben Keith Green called out the values of Stennis saying, “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.”

Green compared the legacy of Stennis to that of Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, who also has a Navy ship named after him, a ship that is homeported in San Diego.

“He’s heralded as the guy who brought social equality at least the beginning of it to the Maritime forces,” VanDiver said.

VanDiver served on USS Chancellorsville while in the Navy and told NBC 7 that he never understood why the Navy would name a ship after a battle in which the confederates won.

“Navy ships should be named after people who fight for justice and equality and won," he said.

Some would argue John C. Stennis deserves having his name on this carrier because he was the first Armed Services Committee Chair.  

But VanDiver agreed with Green that it's time the military considers removing confederate names from military bases and facilities, and Navy ships where VanDiver said people of all races serve to keep all Americans safe.

“We should not be subjecting sailors, soldiers, airmen, Marines, Coast Guard men and maybe spacemen of color to that sort of experience in the name of history.”

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