Faces of the Shipyard:
African American Contributions to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard

African Americans have a rich history in Kitsap County, the City of Bremerton, and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Individuals migrated to the area in search of new opportunities as early as the 1860s and continue to play important roles within the region today.

This exhibit highlights African American contributions to the Shipyard from 1910 to 2009. The featured individuals contributed to inventions such as the underwater arc cutting process, the portable smelting pot, and improved ways of wastewater disposal. They worked as Riggers, Riveters, and Laborers and served in leadership positions within the Shipyard and Bremerton community. Their commitment enables the Shipyard to serve the U.S. Navy and contributes to a higher quality of life for Bremerton residents.

1985 – 2009

African Americans who work in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard contribute a great deal not only to the Shipyard, but also to the local community. They serve as city council members, pastors in local churches, and volunteers. They feed the homeless, create programs to keep children off the streets and out of gangs, and work to end racial discrimination. The Bremerton community continues to benefit from their efforts.

Click photograph for a larger image.

Pearline Giggans

Pearline Giggans began her career at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in the Human Resources Office as an Under Clerk Typist in 1943. She later began work as an Employment Assistant in the Employment Division of the Human Resources Office. Out of the seventeen thousand people who worked at the Shipyard in 1943, Giggans was the only individual still working there by 1995. When Giggans retired, she had served at the Shipyard for over fifty years.

Arthur Speight

Arthur Speight works as a Pipefitter in Shop 07 and devotes much of his time to community service. He developed the Y.M.C.A.'s Friday Night Hoops Program, now known as Teen Late Night, as an alternative to street life and gangs. In 1998, Speight received the Jefferson Award for his work with gang members. He also created Taking It to the Streets, an organization that provides blankets, lothes, and food for the homeless. Speight also serves as minister of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship.

Deborah Brown

Deborah Brown contributed significantly to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in 1995. She served as Project Engineer in charge of designing and installing the Shipyard's Oily Waste Treatment System. Brown is recognized as an expert on State, Federal, and Environmental Protection Agency rules and requirements as they apply to waste water disposal. Her dedication benefited the entire Shipyard by bringing it into compliance with the nation's environmental conscience.

Edward (Chet) Atkins

Edward (Chet) Atkins received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Services from Pacific Lutheran University in 1977 and holds a Certificate in Law and Justice from Central Washington University. Atkins began working in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in 1982. He intended to stay at the Shipyard for only a short time, but was persuaded to stay and help develop a more level playing field for African Americans. During his Shipyard career, Atkins served as a criminal investigator, Security Division Head, Loss Prevention Director, Director of Administrative Services, and Regional MEO Manager.

Throughout his career, Atkins has also worked with many community programs including the Kitsap County Human Rights Committee and Blacks in Government. He has also served as President of the Board of Directors, Holly Ridge Center.

Shelia Ross

Shelia Ross arrived in Washington State in 1988 and entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Apprenticeship Program in 1992. She works as a Mechanic in Shop 57 as well as with the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). Her work through the VPP allows her to educate others on safety and accident prevention. In addition to her career, Ross also volunteers with organizations such as Y.W.C.A's Alternatives to Living in a Violent Environment Shelter, Habitat for Humanity, and the Bremerton Food Line.

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