Jacksonville, one of the naviest cities in America, now has a Navy ship permanently berthed downtown, thanks largely to Eye on Jacksonville’s Citizen of the Month, Daniel Bean.
Bean, a civil trial lawyer with a firm that helps companies in disputes, has spent more than a decade leading a team that brought the USS. Orleck (DD-886) to the city. It arrived Saturday with a parade of escort boats after being towed from Texas.
Born in Alexandria, Va., Bean went to Vanderbilt University on a Navy ROTC scholarship and first saw Jacksonville in a visit as a midshipman in 1984. He was impressed and got orders to Mayport in 1987. He was assigned to a frigate and did a deployment in the Mediterranean and then was transferred to San Diego, and was deployed to the Persian Gulf.
“I always knew I would come back to Jacksonville,” he told Eye.
“I ran too many ships into too many piers and the Navy decided to send me to law school,” he said with a laugh.
He returned to Jacksonville as a Navy lawyer in the Judge Advocate General branch in 1994.
After leaving active duty, he was in the Navy Reserve and worked as a lawyer in the city, becoming president of the Jacksonville Bar Association in 2010. It was about then that some residents, including retired Navy captain John O’Neil and Bert Watson, began talking to Bean about a having a ship docked on the city’s waterfront.
There had been an earlier attempt that failed because the ship that was chosen could not get under the city’s bridges.
The new effort focused first on the Charles S. Adams – a ship Bean had served on as a midshipman. But the Navy process, involving a 1,000-page application and tons of red tape, ultimately failed.
Then, Bean went to social media and immediately got a response from someone in Lake Charles, La. The person said that since Jacksonville had a pier but no ship and Lake Charles had a ship but no pier, they should talk.
A deal was struck and the Orleck was moved to Texas for repairs that wound up totaling $2 million. But Bean estimates having all the rust and barnacles removed “added 15 years to its life.”
Although he lives in the River City, the ex-sailor doesn’t even own a boat. He stays busy with his law firm Abel Bean Law and other activities, including K9s for Warriors, Fire Watch, the United Way and the Five-Star Veterans Homeless Center.
His wife, Anne, is a vice president at an insurance company. His daughter is a lawyer in Chicago and his son is a producer for the Daily Mail in New York. A stepdaughter is in the Space Force in Colorado Springs and a stepson is a financial consultant in Chicago. Another stepson is seeking a master’s degree in engineering at Florida State University.
Bean credits Justin Weakland, who he said was invaluable to the effort, and many others who helped in the arduous task.
As a result of their efforts, the Orleck will be open to the public at the time of the city’s bicentennial on June 1. It will house the Jacksonville Naval Museum and the city’s Fire Museum has just been moved to a site nearby. Other amenities are under way or planned as downtown Jacksonville continues to grow, and shine.
Check out the historical story about the U.S.S. Orleck here.