In a Jan. 28 piece, Washington Post writer Emily Heil covers the retirement of Capitol Hill staffer John Lawrence (pictured to the right), who will be stepping down as chief of staff for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
For three decades, Lawrence worked for Congressman George Miller, who has been a faithful ally to the Friends of Port Chicago National Memorial organization.
The writer asked Lawrence: “What you most proud of?”
What I’m probably proudest of was in the 1980s, I heard of an incident that had occurred in Congressman Miller’s district during World War II. A munitions-loading facility called Port Chicago had exploded and hundreds of people had been killed, most of them black sailors who were involved in the loading operation …
A few weeks after the explosion, a large group of the remaining black sailors were court-martialed because they refused to go back to the unsafe loading facility and they were thrown in jail.
We began the process of creating a national park at the site of the explosion to honor the people who had been killed and to secure presidential pardons. And we ended up with the park and with President Clinton pardoning one of the sailors in 1999.
Now, the story of Port Chicago is taught a lot in schools and there have been some movies and TV programs about it, and it’s become part of the history of race relations in the 1940s in the military.
We’re so grateful to John Lawrence for his incredible support throughout the years!