Friday, March 16, 2018

N.C.'s Liberty Armada-- Part 2: Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co.

From Colonial times through the Civil War and during World War I, the Great War, the Cape Fear River had been the site of shipyards and construction.  Bit no new ship had been built there since 1918.

Now, the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company set up shop on the east bank of the Cape Fear River.  It is a subsidiary of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company.  Wilmington had won a battle with Morehead City, N.C., to get the company.

The Newport News Shipbuilding Company is renowned for its craftsmanship and the teamwork of its shipwrights, but it is notoriously anti-union and right away ran into trouble from the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).  The company's president, Homer Lenoir Ferguson, was the son of a Confederate veteran and has a fierce work ethic and an abiding respect for those who work with their hands -- including Blacks.  He routinely hired black workers for skilled positions such as machinist, riveters, engineers and welders.

He becomes the head of the company when his predecessor, A.L. Hopkins, died when the Lusitania was torpedoed in the Great War.  Ferguson is 68 years old, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who studied naval architecture in Glasgow, Scotland -- the nation that produced revolutionary fast blockade runners used by the Confederacy during the Civil War.  Many of them came to Wilmington.


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