Kelly Lawrence with photos of his family members and a coin from the christening ceremony for Enterprise (CVN 65). He plans to donate the coin for the island landing ceremony for CVN 80. Photo by Nicholas Langhorne

Shipbuilder Has Deep Ties to NNS and Enterprise

Published August 2, 2022

Enterprise (CVN 65) has always been important to fourth-generation shipbuilder Kelly Lawrence (E86) and his family. His grandfathers, father and mother all played a role in the construction of the U.S. Navy’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

Lawrence was on hand as his parents attended the ship’s Sept. 24, 1960, christening at Newport News Shipbuilding – just not in a traditional sense. “Technically, I was there with my mom and dad,” he said. “I was born four days later at the old Riverside Hospital.”

CVN 65 has the fingerprints of Lawrence’s family members throughout. One grandfather was a pipefitter, another was one of the first shipbuilders in the nuclear Quality Inspection Department (QID). His father, T.K. “Kenny” Lawrence, was an Apprentice School graduate who worked on the ship during his entire apprenticeship. And Lawrence’s mother, Carolyn Greene Lawrence, was employed by Westinghouse – which designed the ship’s reactors – and worked onsite at NNS.

Despite that history, Lawrence initially had no plans to continue the family legacy of shipbuilding. “It was not my goal to work here. I remember standing in the front yard of our house in Denbigh saying, ‘I will never work at the shipyard,’ and this year will be 37 years I’ve been working here,” he said. “It’s probably the best decision I ever made.”

In 1985, Lawrence was hired as the offensive line coach for The Apprentice School football team. That led to an opportunity in Radiological Control. At NNS, Lawrence had the opportunity to do work on CVN 65. “It was pretty awesome to be able to work on the same boat that my grandfathers and my parents worked on,” he said.

When the Navy inactivated CVN 65 during a ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, Lawrence and his mother attended. That’s where it was first announced that CVN 80 would carry on the Enterprise name.

“We were both really excited. We knew there was going to be another Enterprise, but we didn’t know it was going to be this soon,” he said.

As he moves toward the end of his career as a shipbuilder, Lawrence – whose team is involved with the ship’s propulsion system – looks forward to the possibility of contributing to the construction of the next Enterprise.

“I think it would be amazing. My plan is to be here for a couple more years. I would like to still be here for the christening of Enterprise.”