Capt. Herbert Hamilton Ward III, career naval officer

Past president of the Maryland Conservation Council was active in Upper Chesapeake Bay environmental matters and preservation of American shad

  • Herbert Hamilton Ward
Herbert Hamilton Ward (Baltimore Sun )
March 23, 2012|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Capt. Herbert Hamilton Ward III, a retired career naval officer who was active in Upper Chesapeake Bay environmental matters and other issues, died March 17 from complications of a blood clot at Gilchrist Hospice in Towson.

The Broadmead retirement community resident was 91.

The son of a lawyer and a homemaker, Herbert Hamilton Ward III was born and raised in Wilmington, Del., where he graduated in 1939 from Friends School.

He was a member of an accelerated wartime class at the Naval Academy, from which he graduated in 1943.

Commissioned an officer, Captain Ward participated in the North African landings and the invasion of Sicily. He was later transferred to the Pacific Theater, where he served as executive officer aboard the destroyer USS McNair.

After the war, he earned master's degrees in both engineering and mathematics from the Navy's Post-Graduate School, family members said.

Captain Ward worked in the Office of Naval Research and, in addition to being assigned to the Pentagon, held assignments in London.

He retired from active duty in 1972, and his decorations included the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars and the Legion of Merit for distinguished service.

In his retirement, Captain Ward turned his attention to environmental matters that affected the Upper Chesapeake Bay. He had a home at the confluence of the Elk River and the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.

He was a co-founder and served as president for a decade of the Upper Chesapeake Bay Watershed Association and had been a member and a former president of the Maryland Conservation Council.

From his home on Oldfield Point, he had a sweeping view of passing vessels and ships.

What raised Captain Ward's ire were the pleasure boats and ships that traveled the canal at high speeds, which created wakes that swamped smaller vessels, endangered their occupants and caused shoreline erosion, especially along the banks of the unprotected Elk River.

Freighters, tankers, bulk-carriers and other commercial shipping also steamed through the area at high speeds.

"A ship came by at a high rate of speed and threw such a wake that my sister was tossed from a boat. My grandfather jumped in and saved her life. Otherwise she would have drowned," said a son, Richard Hamilton Ward of Elkton, who now lives in the Oldfield Point home.

"He'd sit there with a stopwatch timing a ship and then would call his buddies at the Coast Guard, who'd get someone to go out and talk to the skipper," he said.

Captain Ward told The Baltimore Sun in a 1977 interview, "To do anything, I would have to identify the offending boat, take the owner to court and prove specific damages — an absolutely impractical situation."

"What can I do practically," he said, "is when I get mad enough, jump in my Boston Whaler chase the boat down and holler at him."

"Herb was the guardian of the Upper Chesapeake and famous for running along boats and great tankers going through the canal in his 16-foot Boston Whaler," said Tom Horton, former Baltimore Sun environmental columnist and author. "He'd get right up under the bows of those big ships."

He became legendary for once chasing an ocean-going fishing vessel several miles at 30 knots.

Captain Ward was known for issuing speeding tickets or "slowdown notices" to offending captains.

"He had a pole with a clothespin on the end with a ticket that he'd hand up to the bridge," said Mr. Horton with a laugh. "One thing about Herb. He put his money where his mouth was. He was just fearless."

Not every mariner appreciated Captain Ward's diligence in leading the battle against erosion and the safety of recreation boaters.

"The responses have ranged from 'Gee, I'm sorry,' to obscene gestures," he told the newspaper in the interview.

Captain Ward was able to gain the cooperation of the Association of Maryland Pilots in getting Chesapeake Bay pilots to slow down when going through the C&D, which is protected from erosion by stone riprap.

"I don't have the time or the gasoline to go chasing down boats and handing them notes to slow up," Captain Ward told the newspaper.

"Herb was a force to be reckoned with. He and Greenpeace took on the big boats," said Mr. Horton, who called Captain Ward an environmental pioneer in Northeast Maryland.

"He'd go to all the meetings. Back in those days, the whole environmental movement was very small. They were the first wave in the environmental movement in the state," said Mr. Horton.

Captain Ward also worked with Conowingo Dam authorities for years to ensure that there was adequate flow of water through the dam for the survival and propagation of populations of the American shad, an endangered species.

He also worked for the installation of fish ladders so shad could reach their native spawning grounds.

"Herb was concerned with a number of issues from boats speeding in the canal to its deepening and soil disposal sites. He worked hard on that," said Ajax Eastman, a longtime friend, environmental activist and former president of the Maryland Conservation Council.

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