U.S. Naval Academy at 150

January 13, 1995

Annapolis and the state of Maryland owe a debt of gratitude to a mutinous midshipman hanged from the yardarm.

Midshipman Philip Spencer's attempted takeover of the brig-of-war Somers in 1842 persuaded then-Navy Secretary George Bancroft that prospective naval officers needed better training. He decided to replace on-ship training with an on-shore academy that he chose to place at a naval station on the Severn River. Thus in 1845, the U.S. Naval Academy was founded.

Tonight, the academy kicks off a year-long 150th anniversary celebration with the premiere of a documentary about the school. More events are planned throughout the year, but it is really Annapolis and the state of Maryland that should be celebrating.

The founding of the U.S. Naval Academy helped to rescue Annapolis from a slide into obscurity in the mid-19th century.

The city, having been a vital center of commerce and government during the Colonial era, slumped into depression in the early 19th century when many merchants moved to Baltimore. But the state's commitment to retain the seat of government in Annapolis and Bancroft's decision a few years later to establish the Naval Academy there guaranteed that the city would remain prominent in the state and the nation.

Over the years, the nation's Naval Academy has attracted to the Severn River some of the best and brightest men and women in America.

Its graduates include former President Jimmy Carter; billionaire Ross Perot; war heroes William F. Halsey, Chester W. Nimitz and William D. Leahy; and Adm. Hyman Rickover, the father of the nuclear Navy. Albert A. Michelson, Class of 1873, began to measure the speed of light at the academy and later became the first American to win the Nobel Prize in physics. Joseph M. Reeves, Class of 1894, invented the leather football helmet while he was a midshipman.

The academy still attracts many of the country's top high school graduates and is the nation's largest source of astronauts. It is one of the Annapolis area's largest employers and the community benefits from the volunteer work that midshipmen perform. And because of the U.S. Naval Academy's presence, Annapolis can rightly claim to be the United States' sailing capital.

We join in wishing the U.S. Naval Academy a happy 150th birthday.

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