The USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110) will be commissioned June 4, 2011, at the Alabama State Port Authority Pier 2 Terminal in a ceremony co-hosted by the City of Pensacola and the City of Mobile.
The commissioning was originally planned for NAS Pensacola as part of the celebration of the Centennial of Naval Aviation. Mobile offered to co-host the ceremony at the Port of Mobile after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the channel leading to the Pensacola base would not be dredged to an adequate depth in time for the commissioning.
“The Navy is extremely selective about who can and should be approved to host such an event,” said Admiral Robert Kelly, USN (Ret), vice chairman of Armed Services for the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. “The fact that the community of Mobile stepped in to offer their support when the dredging could not happen here, shows the commitment of this entire region to our military.”
“Mobile is proud to partner with the City of Pensacola in the commissioning of the USS William P. Lawrence. The two cities are regional partners, valuing our collective military and maritime base,” said Mobile Mayor Sam Jones. “Both maritime and military are great contributors to our cities’ economic and workforce environment.”
“Mobile County is honored to host the commissioning of the USS Lawrence at our riverfront and to pay tribute to the mission and sacrifices of our armed forces,” said Mobile County Commission President, Merceria Ludgood. Commissioner Connie Hudson expressed enthusiasm for the commissioning noting, ““As a County Commissioner and a proud Navy mom, I am pleased and honored to host the commissioning of the USS Lawrence. We are indebted to our men and women in the military for their extraordinary dedication and sacrifices to our country." Commissioner Mike Dean echoed the importance of assisting our armed forces and our region when in need. “We value our partnerships with our Gulf Coast communities and are honored to participate in the upcoming commissioning of the USS Lawrence,” Dean said. As members of the Mobile County Commission, Ludgood, Hudson and Dean work to promote the region.
“Mobile’s maritime tradition includes a robust shipbuilding industry and strong support for our Armed Forces,” said James K. Lyons, director and CEO for the Port Authority. “The Port Authority was pleased to provide a place to celebrate the Navy’s newest warship and the Gulf Coast’s proud shipbuilding heritage.”
The Mobile Council of the Navy League
also swung into action, collaborating with Pensacola to bring together the needed stakeholders to ensure the commissioning celebration stayed on the Gulf coast. “The Mobile Navy League welcomed the opportunity to assist Pensacola and the Navy through this unforeseen development. The League members felt Mobile could not only keep the celebrations local, but could deliver to the Lawrence the same spirit that was present during Mobile’s commissioning of the USS Independence,” said Walter Meigs, president of the Mobile Council of the Navy League.
“The League also saw a lot of similarities between Admiral Lawrence, for whom the ship is named, and that of our native son, Senator Jeremiah Denton (USN-Retired). Both men achieved the rank of Admiral and were highly decorated Naval Aviators and both were prisoners of war.”
The 500-foot, guided-missile destroyer, built in Pascagoula, Miss., is named for Vice Admiral William Porter Lawrence
, a noted pilot who was the first Naval Aviator to fly twice the speed of sound and was a finalist to become a Mercury astronaut. After being shot down over North Vietnam and spending almost six years as a prisoner of war, Lawrence became Superintendent of the United States Navy
“Hosting the commissioning of a ship named after a Naval Aviator of this caliber by Pensacola, the Cradle of Naval Aviation is a true honor,” said Adm. Kelly.
The USS William P. Lawrence is designed to support maritime warfare well into the 21st century and is capable of simultaneously fighting air, surface and subsurface battles. The ship’s first commanding officer is Commander Thomas R. Williams who will lead a crew of more than 300.
The Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce will continue to organize other events in Pensacola to celebrate the Centennial of Naval Aviation through the end of the year, including a month long celebration of Military Appreciation Month in May.