Barbara Broadhurst TaylorUSS ST LOUIS Sponsor

In one sense it was a pure accident that led to Barbara’s becoming the sponsor of USS ST LOUIS (LCS-19).  In another sense it was fate.

The accidental part was a phone call from James “Sandy” Winnefeld, then Captain of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, to her husband, Andy Taylor. Captain Winnefeld was trying to reach Andy because he thought he had served on USS ENTERPRISE in World War II.

“You’ve got the wrong Taylor,” Andy told him.  “That was my father, Jack.”

But the Captain and Andy got to talking, and the friendship that developed eventually extended to the two men’s wives. So when it came time to select a sponsor for the Navy’s newest littoral combat ship, USS ST LOUIS, Winnefeld thought he knew just the right name to suggest to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus for the traditionally female role.

It does, after all, add up.  Not only did Barbara’s father-in-law serve on USS ENTERPRISE and other ships as a decorated World War II Navy fighter pilot, but her late father, Edwin B. Broadhurst, had been a Lieutenant General in the Air Force. The military is in her blood.

And St. Louis is, too. Barbara was the first woman to serve as President of the Board of Commissioners of the Saint Louis Art Museum.  She serves on the board and executive committee of Forest Park Forever, an organization dedicated to restoring and maintaining one of the nation’s top urban parks.  She has served as a trustee for Webster University, Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School (MICDS), The Junior League of St. Louis and St. Louis Children’s Hospital Friends Board. Her family and the company Jack Taylor founded, Enterprise Rent-A-Car (he named it for the ship), are widely recognized in St. Louis as among the community’s greatest benefactors.

So when Secretary Mabus asked her whether she would be willing to serve as sponsor of USS ST LOUIS, Barbara didn’t hesitate.

“This is truly a great honor for me and I am thrilled to be the sponsor of USS ST LOUIS,” she said.  “I’ve had a lot of wonderful experiences in my life, and this ranks among one of the best.”

As sponsor, Barbara has already participated in three ceremonies revolving around milestones in the ship’s construction: the keel-laying, the mast-stepping, and the christening.  The keel-laying, at which a steel plaque bearing Barbara’s initials was welded into the hull, took place in 2017 in Marinette, Wis., and commemorated the beginning of the warship’s construction.  At the mast-stepping, marking the raising of the mast, she presented a kind of time capsule that was sealed into the ship, containing her father’s Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross medal and commemorative coins from USS ENTERPRISE and USS ESSEX that her father-in-law served on during WWII.  Then, in late 2019, came the christening, at which she smashed a bottle of bubbly against the ship’s bow – and then watched it tumble dramatically on its side into the Menominee River before bobbing seemingly miraculously back upright. (Littoral Combat Ships are among the few vessels that are “side-launched.”)

But in the climax of her role as sponsor, Barbara and the Commissioning Committee will be responsible for most of the events surrounding the ship’s commissioning, its formal launch into active service, slated for mid-2020 in Florida.  Although the Navy will preside over the commissioning itself, the Commissioning Committee will be responsible for organizing all the public events surrounding it. That means they are in charge of the various picnics, tailgate party, receptions, breakfasts and other gatherings for the crew and their families and well-wishers in the days preceding and following the commissioning. Given that the ship will operate with two crews of 70 each, those events will be attended by hundreds of people.

But as sponsor, Barbara is actually much more than a participant and in some cases supervisor of the various milestones marking the ship’s early development. Her role also calls for her to be a good luck charm and godmother of sorts for the ship and crew. And it enables her to be a kind of matchmaker between the crew and the city that gave the vessel its name.

Toward these larger ends, Barbara has already formed personal relationships with many members of the crew and their families and intends to develop more.  Having met some of them at the various ceremonies and through visits she helped organize for them to St. Louis in 2019 and 2020, she has been immensely impressed.

“They come from very different backgrounds,” she said.  “The diversity is remarkable.  Some of them are really young and yet they take on major responsibilities.  They are all very dedicated and they inspire me every day.”

Among the benefits Barbara wants to provide is a scholarship fund to assist crew members and their families obtain college and other advanced degrees; many in the crew, she notes, have technical skills for which they lack corresponding formal degrees that could prove valuable to them, in or out of the Navy.

She also wants the crew to be proud of their association with St. Louis and vice-versa.  Last summer she helped introduce more than a dozen crew members to some of St. Louis’s most iconic attractions, such as the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Muny Opera, St. Louis Blues hockey and the baseball Cardinals, where two of them got to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.  She also wants as many St. Louisans as possible to take pride in the fact that a ship bearing their city’s name is helping to defend the nation.  “Her” ship, she notes, is the seventh USS ST LOUIS in a history that goes back to 1828, and which includes the “Lucky Lou,” a light cruiser that survived Pearl Harbor and went on to earn 11 battle stars during WW II.  That’s a rich history, with which more St. Louisans should be acquainted.

This is how sincere Barbara is about her commitment: She’s made a succession plan.  After she’s gone, daughters Patty Taylor and Chrissy Broughton will pick up the mantle. They have already been designated as the ship’s maid and matron of honor.

USS ST LOUIS, it seems, is going to be well taken care of for a long, long time.