Welders Ready for Arkansas Spotlight
Published November 16, 2022
The skills of six Newport News Shipbuilding welders will be on display during the ceremonial keel laying for Virginia-class submarine Arkansas (SSN 800) on Saturday.
Billy Williams, Brandon Leggett, Phyllis Young, Brian Jackson, Jessica Lawson and Anthony Virola have been selected to weld the initials of the Little Rock Nine, the ship’s sponsors for SSN 800. Per Navy tradition, the shipbuilders will weld the sponsors’ initials onto steel plates that will be affixed to the ship.
In 1957, nine African American teenagers – now known as the Little Rock Nine – 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 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 the submarine in 2018. 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.
The ceremonial keel laying will be broadcast live at HII.com/SSN800, HII’s YouTube channel and the HII and Jennifer Boykin Facebook pages at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 19. There is a limited number of tickets available for NNS employees to attend the event in person. Shipbuilders can request up to two tickets by emailing [email protected].