U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, was somber as he awaited the start of a ceremony Thursday afternoon at the downtown Bremerton Post Office to rename the facility in honor of distinguished sailor John Henry Turpin.
Just before a lineup of speakers began giving their remarks, Kilmer was focused on the actions a world away in Ukraine, where Russian military forces today were using their overwhelming might to invade the former republic of the Soviet Union.
“Obviously the aggression of Russia is not just illegal, it’s tremendously destabilizing to the global order,” the 6th Congressional District representative said. “Thankfully, the United States and our allies are united in saying we’re not going to stand for it.
“You saw the administration is ratcheting up of sanctions and I think that’s going to be really important that we work with our allies to try to put an end to this.”
Honoring John Henry Turpin
But the purpose of Kilmer’s attendance at the renaming ceremony was to honor the Black sailor for his distinguished U.S. Navy career. In 2020, Kilmer introduced bipartisan legislation in Congress to rename the Bremerton Post Office after Turpin. The legislation was supported by the entire Washington congressional delegation and passed unanimously by the U.S. House and Senate before being signed into law in December 2020.
Turpin, a lifelong Bremerton resident, is believed to be the first Black American to qualify as a master diver in a civilian capacity. He was one of the first Black Americans to achieve the rank of chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy. His 30-year career in the Navy included service during the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion and World War I.