Commander Henry Langdon Smith, USN

Born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, Henry “Langdon” Smith was raised in North Carolina and Georgia. He graduated from Georgia Tech and was commissioned an Ensign at the Midshipmen’s School, Columbia University, New York City, in 1945.

In his early years as a Surface Warfare Officer, Ensign Smith saw service aboard the escort aircraft carrier USS Commencement Bay; armored cruiser USS Rochester; and amphibious landing ship, LST 912. Seeking greater adventure, Lt.j.g. Smith reported to Underwater Demolition Team training, the forerunner of Navy SEAL training, in Little Creek, Virginia. Graduating with Class 5 in August 1950, he reported to Underwater Demolition Team 4, serving first as Ordnance and then Submarine Operations Platoon Officer.

Following assignments to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and Purdue University where he earned advanced degrees in Electrical and Industrial Engineering, in 1955 Lt. Smith reported aboard the USS Richard E. Kraus as Gunnery Officer. Upon being promoted to Lieutenant Commander in 1956, he received orders to USS Stribling as Executive Officer. While with a carrier task force to the Mediterranean, Stribling was diverted to recover a pilot who was forced to bail out of his aircraft 55 miles away. As the destroyer closed with the pilot’s position, Smith dove into 15-foot seas and recovered the pilot. For this, Smith was personally commended by the Chief of Naval Operations.

Following tours at the Bureau of Ordnance and Naval War College, Cmdr. Smith assumed command of the destroyer, USS Gregory, which deployed in support of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Retiring from the naval service in April 1964, Smith pursued a career in industry, earned an MBA, and retired in 1992.

Smith married the love of his life, Jean Chilton Abrams, and, sharing 66 years together, they had two children, David Allen Smith, who died in 1992; and Amy Smith Haines; as well as two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Smith had a wry sense of humor, was quick to laugh and was very active in retirement, including climbing Mt. Whitney with his son. His love of people and life were universally reciprocated by his beloved Rotarians. Smith’s was a life well and nobly lived.

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