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“The President’s Own”

United States Marine Band

Lieutenant Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
Walter F. Smith


Joined Nov. 5, 1885, as a cornetist
Second Leader, March 1899 –1921

Walter F. Smith was born in Montevallo, Missouri, on June 5, 1859 but was raised in Schoolcraft, Michigan.

He began his musical career on the alto horn, cornet, and flute and performed in various bands in southern Michigan before joining the band in Goshen, Ind., directed by the famous bandmaster Walter Rogers.

At the suggestion of a friend, he auditioned for, and won, a seat in the Marine Band’s cornet section under 17th Director John Philip Sousa. After serving as the solo cornet and concertmaster, he was named the acting Second Leader from 1890-1892 and acting Leader after Sousa retired and before Francesco Fanciulli assumed command. At Sousa’s retirement ceremony, Smith presented him with an engraved baton from the musicians of the Marine Band. The Sousa baton now is passed from a retiring Director to the newly-appointed Director in Marine Band change of command ceremonies. Smith served until 1893, when he left to join John Philip Sousa’s civilian band. He returned to the Marine Band in May 1898.

In March 1899, an Act of Congress established the positions of First Leader and Second Leader of the Marine Band. Smith was the first man to officially hold the title of Second Leader at the rank of sergeant major.

He retired from the Marine Band in May 1921.