U.S. Naval Academy Class Rings

Graduates Remembered

Captain William Woods Smyth

Midshipman William Smyth

Captain Smyth’s class ring was donated to the Naval Academy Museum by his wife, Gertrude Fraser Smyth on September 25, 1940. His ring was manufactured by Black, Starr & Frost-Gorham.[1]

Captain William Woods Smyth was born on October 5, 1879 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. On September 9, 1899, he entered the Naval Academy as a Naval Cadet. Midshipman Smyth was a member of the Hop Committee and Associated Editor of the Lucky Bag. He rowed varsity crew and was an excellent student authorized to wear stars on his collars, the precursor to the Superintendent or Commandant's list. During his First Class year he was a Mathematics Instructor. Midshipman Smyth graduated 3 of 50 midshipman on February 2, 1903.[2]

A savvy man, but of indolent habits. Of a fiery complexion, but quiet and even-tempered in character. An excellent bluffer, who at times has almost convinced himself that he knew what he was talking about.

On January 1, 1909, Lieutenant Smyth was assigned aboard the newly commissioned armored cruiser USS North Carolina (ACR-12). In the first weeks of February 1909, the North Carolina transported President-elect Taft back to New Orleans. Additionally, the North Carolina and the Montana had the new wireless radio sets should Taft need to use them to communicate with the States. On September 15, 1924, CDR Smyth was assigned to as Secretary of the General Board. On November 23, 1925, CDR Smyth was promoted to Captain. On August 12, 1926 representing the Secretary of the Navy, Rear Admiral William L. Rodgers, USN retired (USNA 1878) and Captain Smyth, created a stir in Europe when at the Institute of Politics, they accused the leading powers of the world of engaging in a competition of armament building, but said the United States is not involved in the race, instead identifying Japan, England and France. [3]

He was a veteran of World War I aboard battleship USS North Dakota (BB-29). Captain Smyth’s sea commands included the survey ship USS Hannibal (AG-1) and the battleship USS Tennessee (BB-43). He died on May 9, 1934 on active duty aboard hospital ship USS Relief. He was 54 years old and buried at sea 15 miles west of Culebra Island.


[1] United States Naval Academy Museum card file of Curator James Cheevers, retrieved January 7, 2014.

[2] United States Naval Academy Alumni Association, Inc., 2013 Register of Alumni, (Chesapeake, VA: Harris Connect, 2012), A8.

[3] “William Woods Smyth,” Findagrave.com, accessed April 24, 2016, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=130911012.