If Henry Anthony “Tony” Murkins wants you to know anything about him, it is that the most beautiful thing he has ever seen was in Washington, D.C., when he took a young sailor whose father was killed in Vietnam to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He and his son, Antoine, videotaped the moment when the young man reached up with a pencil and a piece of paper and did a rubbing of his dad’s name off the cold granite. “Then we all cried together. He was only two years old when his father died,” said Murkins.
Throughout his personal life and career as a civil service employee of the Naval Sea Systems Keyport, Undersea Warfare Center, he has displayed an unselfish dedication to improve his community, promote better understanding among the races, and achieve equal opportunity for all. He has actively participated in numerous organizations including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Commission on African American Affairs, Blacks in Government (BIG), Central Kitsap School District Committees, and the Urban League, to name a few.
Concerned with the increase in drug-related and violent crimes in low-income family housing complexes, Murkins introduced the first Washington State Drug Education for Youth (DEFY) program in 1995. He successfully recruited volunteers and support from local Naval installations to organize a two-week summer camp for approximately 70 youths (ages 9 to 13), special events (guest speakers, community meetings), field trips (sporting events, hikes) and year-round mentoring. The program was very successful and has expanded to include regular support from three local military Commands.
In 1995, Murkins acquired government surplus computers to establish a computer center in a low-income housing complex. The new computer center provides a place for youth residents to use computer to do school work and thereby compete more equally with those whose families can afford home computers. After establishing the new computer center, Murkins worked with local government agencies (AmeriCorps and Kitsap County Action Program) to maintain and expand the center’s capabilities. The center has now expanded to offer residents educational classes on computer skills and skill upgrades.
While serving as President of the NUWSC Division, Keyport’s Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Committee, Murkins took the lead in establishing Keyport Employees Scholarship Foundation. The Foundation provides college scholarships for children of workers (civil service, military, and contractors) at the base. The Foundation promotes various fundraisers and award scholarships to students based on academic achievements and community involvement. Since its inception in 1987, the Foundation has awarded more than 53 scholarships worth $1000 each.
In 1996, Murkins organized Kitsap County’s first Juneteenth Celebration, as a reminder of June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger issued the Galveston proclamation that ended the practice of slavery in Texas. The annual celebration includes cultural events such as recitals, dances, and guest speakers and is used to promote Bone Marrow Registration Drives to increase the number of minority applicants in the national register.
Murkins also took the lead in 1998 to revitalize Keyport’s ADP Equipment School Donation Program. Murkins conducted the research, wrote the instruction manual and gathered a group of volunteers to help provide donated computers and surplus items to more than 30 schools. He has instituted the program “From the Workplace to the School,” which provides African-American male role models to mentor at local area schools.
As Chair of the Keyport Workforce Diversity Council, Murkins has organized annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sunrise services at the Naval Undersea Museum Auditorium and the county-wide MLK Observances and the Kitsap County Pavilion. As a member of Blacks in Government, he helped organize oratorical and computer contests for children in grades nine through 12. Recently, Murkins helped persuade one local city to declare Martin Luther King Day as an additional paid holiday. Murkins has received several distinguished awards. He was the sole recipient of the Department of the Navy NAACP Roy Wilkins Renowned Service Award and Seattle Post Intelligence Jefferson Award, considered the Noble Peace Prize for Community Service, the Kitsap County Wall of Fame Award for achievement of human rights in the county, the Commanders Award for Equal Employment Opportunity, and the Commanders Award for Service to Others. “Tony” Murkins’ tireless and selfless dedication to the cause of equality of opportunity and the betterment of his community reflects great credit on him, the Department of Defense, and the Department of the Navy.