Sailors invade Farragut

  • Farragut Ships’ Association Inc.’s 2018 reunion brought together dozens of former USS Farragut crew members in Norfolk, Virginia. Next week will mark the first time the group has met in the Town of their ships’ namesake. - Photo submitted

  • Farragut Ships’ Association treasurer Thomas Randall, left, and president Kurtiss “Zippy” Hullinger hold a flag signed by various USS Farragut crew members during the group’s 2018 reunion. Randall and other reunion committee members have been working with Town officials on next week’s visit. - Photo submitted

For the very first time, USS Farragut sailors are bringing their bi-annual reunion to the birthplace of their ships’ namesake, Admiral David Glasgow Farragut, next week.

Thomas Randall, current treasurer and past president for Farragut Ships’ Association Inc., and the group’s reunion committee has been working with Town Tourism coordinator Karen Tindal to bring the event to Farragut for three years. It had been planned for 2020 but was cancelled because of COVID-19 concerns.

“We meet every two years and call them ‘Homecomings.’ We had met every two years (since 2002) until COVID cancelled the 2020 event in Farragut,” said Randall, who was assigned to the USS Farragut DDG-37 during a portion of his Navy service. “We are determined to be there for the Oct 15 Farragut High School Admirals’ varsity football home game (versus Bradley County).”

PM & MT Catering of Lenoir City will cater the group’s tailgate party prior to the game.

At least 50 members of the Association have booked hotel rooms in the Staybridge Suites Knoxville West hotel in Farragut, and are due to begin arriving in Town starting Wednesday, Oct. 13. Randall said at last count more than 80 had committed to attend.

In addition to the FHS football game, the group will hold its business meeting on Saturday, Oct 16, in Town Hall’s council room (which was offered to them by Town Mayor Ron Williams) and will also visit Farragut Folklife Museum.

“We have been working with members of the USS Farragut Association since October 2018 to coordinate their stay in Farragut, which was originally scheduled for October 2020,” Tindal said. “This is the 11th homecoming reunion for these shipmates and their families. We look forward to finally welcoming them to town.

“With our museum housing one of the largest collections of Admiral Farragut’s artifacts and the high school football (stadium) proudly displaying an anchor once used on the ship, it is appropriate for these proud veterans to reunite in the Town of Farragut.”

The group formerly was known as the USS Farragut (DLG-6/DDG-37) Association and founded in 2002, but at that time it was only open to former crew members from that ship.

Randall made the motion in 2006 after commissioning of the present USS Farragut (DDG-99, Homeport Mayport Naval Station, Florida) to include “any U.S. Navy personnel assigned to any ship named Farragut.”

“I was proud to make (that)motion to change our name,” he added. “Our group is a very cohesive one, and we all look forward to seeing each other every two years.”

Five ships have been named for Admiral Farragut: Torpedo Boat 11 in 1898-1919; DD-300 1920-1930; DD-348 1934-46; DLG-6, which had a designation change to DDG-37 in 1975, and served through 1989; and the newest one, DDG-99, was commissioned in June 2006.

“Most members are from the DDG-37 — including me,” said Randall, who noted the group’s oldest member is 100 years old and was on the DD-348 during World War II.

Previously, the Homecomings have taken place in locations including Jacksonville, Florida, and Norfolk, Virginia, where the Farragut-named ships had been located.

Randall said one of the group’s members and current president, Kurtiss “Zippy” Hullinger of Rhode Island, had driven through Farragut in 2016, “and he had the idea for us to visit the Town named for Admiral Farragut, and we talked about going to a fall Farragut football game and visiting the museum and thereby honoring the man for whom our ships were named.”

One reason the group wants to attend the FHS football game is that the anchor on display at FHS’s stadium is from the DLG-6/DDG-37.

“I was the ‘brakeman’ on the anchor windlass in 1979 and ‘washed,’ that anchor (dropped it in the sea) many times,” Randall said, adding it was “rescued from being scrapped in Texas by a miracle of timing — at the time of that ship’s scrapping, permission was given by the Navy and someone in Farragut had a flatbed truck in the right place (Brownsville, Texas) at the right time.

“That holds a lot of memories for me, and it will really be neat for me to attend this Farragut reunion and see a part of my favorite ship (and I served on many).”