No one is quite certain who first proposed the idea, but Commodore Foxhall Parker—who had fought on the Union side during the Civil War, while his brother had served as Superintendent of the Confederate States Naval Academy—chaired the organizing committee. He was aided by Lieutenant Charles Belknap and encouraged by Worden, who was then Naval Academy superintendent. The others who attended that inaugural meeting included a pay inspector, a chief engineer, a medical officer, two commanders, five lieutenant commanders, a lieutenant, and a Marine captain.
They chose the name United States Naval Institute, and within a year, one of their published papers had influenced congressional legislation to support state-sponsored Merchant Marine training, one of the early steps that eventually brought America out of its maritime doldrums.
An idea conceived in extremis did not ebb once the crisis had passed, and today the Naval Institute continues its mission of supporting the sea services in its own unique manner, still on the grounds of the Naval Academy, although now in a hall named for Captain Edward L. Beach (and his father), who once described the Institute as like “no other organ in any of the armed services of any nation” because it “jealously guards its editorial independence,” providing “a forum for free dissemination and discussion of ideas.”
We owe much to those initial 15 and even more to the many who have dared to follow in their wake: reading, thinking, speaking, and writing for 138 years . . . and counting.