U.S. Naval Academy Class Rings

Graduates Remembered

Captain Riley Franklin McConnell

Mcconnell
Captain McConnell

Captain McConnell’s class ring was donated to the Naval Academy Museum by his widow Mrs. Grace Otteson McConnell on August 13, 1940. His ring was manufactured by Black, Starr & Frost-Gorham. [1]

Captain Riley Franklin McConnell was born on July 22, 1884 in Gate City, Virginia. He was nominated to the Naval Academy from Virginia. On June 29, 1903, he entered the United States Naval Academy as a Midshipman. He was on the Navy football team plebe, youngster and second class year and a track standout all four years, earning the Navy “N” in both sports. In 1906, McConnell held the Navy shot put record at 38 feet. He graduated 141 of 209 Midshipmen on June 6, 1907.[2] A bashful young giant from Virginia, being the heaviest man in the Academy.

Captain McConnell sailed with the “Great White Fleet” and was a veteran of the Haitian Campaign and World War I. He was present at the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet on November 22, 1918 aboard battleship USS Arkansas (BB-33). He was awarded the Navy Cross for his service while assigned as Chief of Staff to Commander in Chief of Asiatic Station during Sino-Japanese hostilities. [3] His actions are credited with protecting many American lives.

He died on active duty on August 22, 1939 as Commanding Officer Training Center San Diego, California. He was 55 years old and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The destroyer escort USS McConnell (DE-163) was named in his honor.

Navy Cross

Awarded for actions during the Peace Time Awards:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Captain Riley Franklin McConnell, United States Navy, for distinguished service in the line of his duty as Chief of Staff of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Asiatic Fleet, 30 October 1936 to 25 July 1939 while, due to the Sino-Japanese hostilities, extensive military naval and aerial operations were being conducted on the coastal ports, on the rivers and the mainland of China. During these operations the Asiatic Fleet and attached Marine Corps Forces, under most exacting, difficult and hazardous conditions, successfully safe-guarded the lives and interests of American citizens in the Far East. On occasion when the Commander in Chief was forced to be absent from his station, Captain McConnell carried on the administration of the Fleet in an exceptionally efficient and capable manner. By display of excellent judgment, tact and diplomacy he created a most favorable impression with American and foreign officials with whom he came in contact. His exceptional administrative ability, outstanding qualities of leadership, loyal and unselfish services were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.[3]

References

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

[2] First Class, Lucky Bag, (Annapolis, MD: US Naval Academy, 1907), 83.

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

[4] "Hall of Valor," militarytimes.com, accessed May 5, 2016, http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=27596.