As a Mississippi senator, John C. Stennis signed the infamous “Southern Manifesto” decrying integration. He fought black equality in the Navy and, as a prosecutor, sought execution for three black men who’d been tortured into confessing.
For several decades, his name has graced an aircraft carrier currently based in Norfolk — the only senator to have that honor.
Now, amid a national reckoning over America’s racist roots, some are pushing for that to change.
“Today’s sailors, Marines, and officers should not have to make the psychologically damaging choice of speaking up or serving in silence in a vessel named for an ardent segregationist and white supremacist, who condoned beating the skin off black people until they either confessed or died,” retired Lt. Cmdr. Reuben Keith Green wrote in a recent piece for the U.S. Naval Institute. “It is incompatible with American values and the recent directives from the Navy to expect for them to have to do so.”
This is why the military should be prohibited from naming anything after anyone until they have been dead for at least a decade.