BATH, Maine — Former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s daughters christened a “stealth” warship bearing his name on Saturday, smacking champagne bottles against a metal star symbolizing Texas as a crowd roared in approval.
Champagne sprayed into the air when Lynda Bird Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson simultaneously smashed their bottles as they stood on the ship’s bow. Afterward, red, white and blue streamers shot skyward.
Robb said her Texas-born father would be honored to have his name on the futuristic ship — the last of a truncated line of three Zumwalt-class “stealth” destroyers built in Bath — because he always looked to the future.
“Daddy would be proud to have a stealthy ship that’s looking forward, not backward at past things that have happened, but forward for the great things” to come, Robb told The Associated Press before Saturday’s ceremony.
The warship’s no-nonsense namesake was praised for his efforts to help poor Americans and to fight for equality in the civil rights era.
Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and designed “Great Society” domestic programs that included federally sponsored social welfare initiatives. But his presidency was dogged by controversy over his escalation of the Vietnam war. He died in 1973.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who attended with Maine’s congressional delegation and other dignitaries, noted that Johnson, a Navy veteran, was thrust into the presidency “in one of our darkest hours” after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Civil Rights Act, she said, “changed America and helped our nation realize its ideals of justice and equality for all.”
Robb said her father, the nation’s 36’s president, would be “thrilled” that the warship’s crest contains a nod to three of his greatest accomplishments: the Great Society, civil rights and NASA.
Outside the shipyard, police made several arrests when activists calling on the federal government to spend money to fight climate change instead of building warships blocked a public road.
The 610-foot warship is the last in a class of three ships that are the largest and most technologically sophisticated destroyers built for the U.S. Navy.
The destroyers feature wave-piercing hulls, an angular shape that reduces their radar signature, and electric propulsion. Automation has halved the crew size compared with other destroyers.
Unlike its sister ships, the USS Zumwalt and USS Monsoor, the LBJ will have a deckhouse that’s made of steel, not composite materials, to save money. The program, once envisioned at 32 ships, was so costly that the Navy truncated the program to just the three ships because of the cost.
The Lyndon B. Johnson will undergo further outfitting and sea trials before it’s commissioned into service.