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First Name: Richmond

Last Name: Hobson

Birthplace: Greensboro, AL, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: NY
Middle Name: Pearson

Date of Birth: 17 August 1870

Date of Death: 16 March 1937

Rank or Rate: Rear Admiral

Years Served: 1889-1903
Richmond Pearson Hobson
'Father of American Prohibition'

•  Spanish-American War (1898)


Richmond Pearson Hobson

Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy

Medal of Honor Recipient

Spanish-American War

Rear Admiral Richmond Pearson Hobson (17 August 1870 - 16 March 1937) was a U.S. Navy officer who received the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during the Spanish-American War. He also served from 1907-1915 as a U.S. Representative from Alabama.

The Early Years

Richmond Pearson Hobson 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).

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 an instructor at the Naval Academy.

Spanish-American War

In the early days of the Spanish-American War, he was with Admiral William T. Sampson in New York, and arrived off Santiago on 1 June 1898. In order to bottle up the Spanish squadron of Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete, Lieutenant 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 on 3 June 1898 under heavy Spanish fire that 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 6 July 1898, hundreds of American troops snapped to attention, and then burst into cheers as he passed. He was deluged with speaking invitations when he returned to the U.S. 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.

Hobson was advanced ten numbers in grade after the war, and on 29 April 1933, President William McKinley presented him with 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.

Hobson authored a book about the events surrounding the sinking of the Merrimac.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy

Citation: 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.

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, 1905-1915, was a firm advocate of naval expansion. He was denied re-nomination in the 1914 Democratic primary. 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.

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." 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). He also spoke 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

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

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.


• The destroyer USS Hobson (DD-464) was named in his honor.

• A small town in south Texas was re-named from Castine to Hobson after he spoke there on a railroad tour.

Death and Burial

Rear Admiral Richmond Pearson Hobson died on 16 March 1937 in New York City. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, in Section 6, Lot 5014, Map grid T/U 19.5.

Honoree ID: 1896   Created by: MHOH




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