CEREMONIAL KEEL LAYING
Newport News Shipbuilding held a ceremonial keel laying for Arkansas (SSN 800) on Saturday, Nov. 19, to celebrate the symbolic beginning of the U.S. Navy submarine’s construction. The ship’s sponsors are the six women of the historic group known as the Little Rock Nine, the first African American students to attend all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, during desegregation.
During the ceremony, NNS honored all nine members, including the three men. NNS welders etched an historic six sets of initials of the Little Rock Nine onto metal plates, signifying the keel of SSN 800 as being “truly and fairly laid.” The metal plates will remain affixed to the U.S. Navy submarine throughout its life.
About the Submarine
Arkansas (SSN 800) is the 27th boat in the Virginia-class, a program recognized by the U.S. Navy as a model of efficiency and quality. Virginia-class submarines are built under a unique teaming arrangement between HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat. SSN 800 was named in honor of the state of Arkansas on Nov. 8, 2015.
In 2018, the six women of the Little Rock Nine were named Ship’s Sponsors: Melba Pattillo Beals, Ph.D.; Elizabeth Eckford; Gloria Ray Karlmark; Carlotta Walls LaNier; Minnijean Brown Trickey and Thelma Mothershed Wair. NNS will honor the entire Little Rock Nine including the men of the group – Ernest G. Green; Terrence J. Roberts, Ph.D.; and the late Jefferson Thomas – during the ceremonial keel laying for the submarine.
Shipbuilders, family and friends are encouraged to join in the conversation on social media using #SSN800.
THE Little Rock Nine
In 1957, nine African American teenagers made history when they elected to attend all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, fulfilling the landmark Supreme Court decision that ruled racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. When they faced shouting mobs, threats of violence and hostile state leaders who blocked their way, President Dwight D. Eisenhower deployed federal troops to escort them to classes. The Little Rock Nine, as they came to be known, have spent their lives advocating for quality education. In 2018, the six women of the Little Rock Nine – Melba Pattillo Beals, Ph.D.; Elizabeth Eckford; Gloria Ray Karlmark; Carlotta Walls LaNier; Minnijean Brown Trickey and Thelma Mothershed Wair – were named sponsors of U.S. Navy submarine Arkansas (SSN 800). Per Navy tradition, shipbuilders will weld their initials onto steel plates that will be affixed to the ship. The men of the group – Ernest G. Green; Terrence J. Roberts, Ph.D.; and the late Jefferson Thomas – will also be honored during the ceremony.
Welders in the Spotlight
From left to right: Billy Williams, Brandon Leggett, Phyllis Young, Brian Jackson, Jessica Lawson, Anthony Virola.