Comments In New York Newspaper Shock Mississippians

Steel beams from the World Trade Center Towers arrived at Northrup Grumman Pascagoula a week ago. Shipyard workers will use the steel to construct the bow of the USS New York. And although most shipworkers are looking forward to the opportunity, Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin says the shipyard is not capable of building such a ship.

"Fortunately, however our reputation for building ships is determined by people who understand the shipbuilding business and have an interest and believe in a strong national defense", said Den Knecht, Northrup Grumman spokesman.

Breslin interviewed area NAACP leader Curley Clark to discuss the fall of Senator Trent Lott. But in the article, Breslin identified Clark as an Ingalls employee who said the "rebel flag flies high over the shipyard."

Curley Clark said that's not what he meant, "Never at any point did I say the rebel flag was being flown at the shipyard. My comments on the rebel flag was in response to the issue about the rebel flag being flown at the Eight Flags display."

Breslin also wrote that African Americans were "broom pushers" at the shipyard. Clark himself has been an accounting manager at the shipyard for more than 20 years.

"There were some metaphorically spoken words that Mr. Breslin apparently took literally and reported literally, but I meant it metaphorically." Knecht said out of the shipyards total employees, about 35 percent are African American. And thirty percent of minorities are in management or supervisor positions.

"The racial diversity is something that Northrup Grumman has pushed very hard", said Knecht.

Clark says until the rebel flag is removed from the eight flags display, others will think of Mississippi as a racist state.

Only parts of the USS New York will be built at the Pascagoula shipyard. The majority of the ship will be built at the New Orleans Avondale location.

By Jennifer Holliman