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Richmond Pearson Hobson
Naval Constructor Richmond P. Hobson, 1898
Born (1870-08-17)August 17, 1870
Died March 16, 1937(1937-03-16) (aged 66)
Place of birth Greensboro, Alabama
Place of death New York City, New York
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1889–1903
Rank Rear Admiral
Commands held USS Merrimac
Battles/wars Spanish-American War
*Sinking of the Merrimac
Awards Medal of Honor
Relations Richmond P. Hobson, Jr. (son)
James H. Morrison (nephew)
Other work U.S. Representative

Richmond Pearson Hobson (August 17, 1870 – March 16, 1937) was a United States Navy Rear Admiral who served from 1907 to 1915 as a U.S. Representative from Alabama. A veteran of the Spanish-American War, he received the Medal of Honor years later for his part in that conflict.

Early life and career

He was born at Magnolia Grove in Greensboro in Hale County in the western Black Belt of Alabama. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1889. He was ostracized by his fellow midshipmen for his total abstinence from alcohol and tobacco. He maintained a superb academic record, graduating first in his class and became the highest ranking midshipman: Cadet Battalion Commander (today's Brigade Commander).[1] After duty in Chicago, he underwent additional training and was appointed Assistant Naval Constructor in 1891. Hobson then served at various Navy Yards and facilities, including a tour of duty as instructor at the Naval Academy.

Spanish-American War

In the early days of Spanish-American War, he was with Admiral William T. Sampson in New York, and arrived off Santiago on June 1, 1898. In order to bottle up the Spanish squadron of Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete, Hobson took temporary command of the collier Merrimac, which he would attempt to sink as an obstruction in the channel. The attempt was made early June 3, under heavy Spanish fire, which disabled the steering gear of the collier. Hobson did sink the Merrimac, but was unable to place her in the shallowest part of the channel. With his crew of six, he was picked up by Admiral Cervera himself and treated quite chivalrously.

Hobson became a hero of the American press while he was a prisoner of war in Cuba. His portrait appeared in hundreds of newspapers with embellished stories of his bravery in volunteering for what was perceived as a suicide mission. A fund was raised to aid his parents in avoiding foreclosure of their mortgage. When Hobson was released during a prisoner exchange on July 6, 1898, hundreds of American troops snapped to attention, then burst into cheers as he passed. He was deluged with speaking invitations when he returned to the United States. After dining with President William McKinley, Hobson traveled west by train en route to San Francisco and the Philippines. Crowds greeted his train at many stations, and his enthusiasm for kissing admiring young women made him a sex symbol of the Victorian age.[1] He became a sort of celebrity during the rise of popular journalism at the turn of the century and was referred to as "the most kissed man in America."[2] Hobson authored a book about the events surrounding the sinking of the Merrimac.

Hobson was advanced ten numbers in grade after the war and, in 1933, awarded the Medal of Honor for his attempt to block the channel. Following the end of the war he helped repair and refit captured Spanish cruisers at Cavite and at various Navy shore stations.

Political career

After resigning from active duty in 1903, Hobson remained a staunch supporter of the Navy and during his subsequent career as a Democratic U.S. Representative from Alabama, 1907–1915, was a firm advocate of naval expansion. He was denied renomination in the 1914 Democratic primary, and was notable for being the only Congressman from the Deep South to vote for the (failed) women's suffrage bill in the 1915 lame-duck session. In 1934, by special act of the United States Congress, he was advanced to Naval Constructor with a rank of Rear Admiral, and placed on the retired list. He died on March 16, 1937, in New York City and is interred in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Painting of Rear Admiral Richmond P. Hobson (Retired), dated 1937. He is depicted wearing his Medal of Honor and standing before an artwork of the sinking of the USS Merrimac.

What better way to campaign for office than to have your name close to a face. The Atlantic Cutlery Company (c1898-1914) produced a number of promotional straight razors with the engraved inscription "Our Hero Richmond Pearson Hobson at Santiago June 5th 1898". Razor pictured has "Hobson LXX" hand-etched on back side of blade.

Straight Razor Campaign item

Role in American drug policy

After leaving Congress, Hobson became very active in the cause of banning drugs and alcohol, earning the nickname "The Father of American Prohibition".[3] Hobson was a prolific author on this subject, writing the books Narcotic Peril (1925), The Modern Pirates-Exterminate Them (1931) and Drug Addiction: A Malignant Racial Cancer (1933),[4] speaking on radio programs and in front of civic groups, founding the International Narcotic Education Association and lobbying his former Congressional colleagues in favor of anti-drug laws. During the 1920s and '30s, Hobson was the Anti-Saloon League's highest-paid special speaker.

Personal life and legacy

In 1905, Hobson married Grizelda Houston Hull, cousin of U.S. Army general Joseph Wheeler, in Tuxedo Park, New York. The couple's son, Richmond P. "Rich" Hobson, Jr., became a rancher in Canada and wrote several popular memoirs of his time there.[5] Hobson's nephew, James Hobson Morrison, Sr., was the Democratic congressman from the Baton Rouge-centered Sixth Congressional District of Louisiana from 1943 to 1967.

One of Hobson's close friends was the inventor Nikola Tesla. Tesla served as the best man in Hobson's 1905 wedding. In later years, Hobson was the only person who was able to persuade Tesla to interrupt his intellectual pursuits for a movie gathering.[5]

The destroyer USS Hobson (DD-464) was named in his honor. A small town in south Texas was renamed from Castine to Hobson after he spoke there on a railroad tour.

Medal of Honor citation

Rank and organization: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy. Born: 17 August 1870, Greensboro, Ala. Accredited to: New York. (Medal presented by President, 29 April 1933.)


In connection with the sinking of the U.S.S. Merrimac at the entrance to the fortified harbor of Santiago de Cuba, 3 June 1898. Despite persistent fire from the enemy fleet and fortifications on shore, Lt. Hobson distinguished himself by extraordinary courage and carried out this operation at the risk of his own personal safety.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Shaw, Barton C. "The Hobson Craze" United States Naval Institute Proceedings February 1976 pp.54-60
  2. "How Hobson Kissing Match Was Started". Mar. 21, 1930. 
  3. [1] "Ramsey, Bob: "Captain Hobson - The Father of American Prohibition", 1995"
  4. [2] "Davenport-Hines, Richard: "The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics," 2002"
  5. 5.0 5.1 "New Vanderhoof museum to reveal much more than history of Rich Hobson". Vanderhoof, British Columbia. March 3, 2011. Archived from the original on March 3, 2011. 
This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

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