WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - When the Battleship North Carolina was brought to Wilmington in 1961, a state commission was established to oversee the administration and operation of the ship. Wilmington's Hugh Morton served as the first chairman.
It had been 53 years since the commission chairman was a person from the Port City. That has now changed as Governor Pat McCrory has appointed Wilmington native and World War II historian Wilbur Jones to lead the commission. Jones says he thinks it is important for a person from the Port City to be in charge.
"While I think it is important to have a chairman, from time to time, to come from Asheville, Winston-Salem or Charlotte, or other places, the fact that I am only about 15 minutes away from the ship and have access to the staff and the executive director, and any opportunity I have to help the ship, I am readily available and I do not have to spend all day driving or flying down to Wilmington to do it," Jones explained.
There are several committees on the Battleship Commission, including the development committee, where a $17 million Generations Capital Campaign is now underway. That is where funds will be used to pay for the hull replacement project that was mandated by the Department of the Navy.
Jones says he is happy the project will be done locally.
"I think it will be interesting to visitors far and wide to come and see this cofferdam that will be built around the ship and we will drain the swamp, so to speak, and we will make the hull repairs, and at the same time," Jones said. "We will begin work on the memorial walkway, which will go 360 degrees around the ship and for the first time, give a visitor a chance to see what the starboard side of the ship looks like."
The public part of the capital campaign will begin in April.