Harvey Milk in his Navy uniform.
Harvey Milk in his Navy uniform.

In a celebration of an iconic civil rights advocate with San Diego roots, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other local politicians traveled to San Francisco Tuesday for the naming of the future USNS Harvey Milk. 

Milk, the first openly gay elected official in a major American city, served in the Navy from 1951 to 1955 as a diving instructor stationed in San Diego. He was assassinated while serving on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1978 — reportedly wearing his Navy belt buckle on the day he died.

The San Diego contingent included City Councilman Todd Gloria, Assembly Speaker Emeritus Toni Atkins and San Diego LGBT Advisory Board Co-Chair Nicole Murray-Ramirez, who helped drive the campaign to have a Navy vessel named in Milk’s honor.

“The news that the Navy will name a ship after the great Harvey Milk is thrilling for the LGBTQ community because it’s yet another prestigious honor for one of our heroes,” said Atkins. “It’s deeply personal for me for many reasons, one of which is that the ship will be built in San Diego.”

The USNS Harvey Milk will be the second in a new class of fleet oilers to be built at General Dynamics NASSCO in Barrio Logan. An oiler is a logistics ship that replenishes other ships with fuel, food, ammunition and other necessities while at sea.

The first ship in the class is named for civil rights leader John Lewis, and other ships planned are the USNS Sojourner Truth, USNS Robert F. Kennedy, USNS Lucy Stone and USNS Earl Warren.

“Harvey Milk was a political force, who rallied people to take pride in their identity, empower themselves to have a voice in our democracy, and fight for freedom and equality for all in our society,” said Gloria. “Today’s naming ceremony for the USNS Harvey Milk is a significant honor to the memory of a great figure in American history and a strong affirmation that all those who serve our country are worthy of our highest respect and praise.”