“Who's Who in Navy Blue” (1920)
It is not often that a composer dedicates music to a wooden Indian. Sousa did just that by dedicating this march to Tecumseh, whose stern figurehead adorns Bancroft Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.
Until a cache of old letters was recently discovered among Sousa family holdings in 1975, there was no proof of a request for this march coming from the student body of the U.S. Naval Academy. From the letters it was learned that a request had been made by Midshipman W. A. Ingram, president of the class of 1920. At that time, it was customary for each class to have its own new song or march to be performed at graduation exercises.
The manner of choosing a title for the march bordered on the comical. Midshipman T. R. Wirth suggested “Ex Scienta Tridens” (“From Science to Sea Power”). Sousa’s response to this was that it sounded like a remedy for the flu or a breakfast cereal. He suggested an alternate, “Admirals By and By.” Wirth stood firm with his proposal and pointed out that one of Sousa’s most famous marches was “Semper Fidelis,” also taken from the Latin.
At this point, Sousa apparently was inclined to withdraw his offer to compose the march, but Wirth pleaded with him not to take this course of action. Wirth tried to compromise on a title, offering such names as “Gentlemen Sailors,” “Seafarers” and “Admirals All.” Sousa did some compromising of his own, and “Who’s Who in Navy Blue” became the title.
In recognition of Sousa’s contribution to the Navy during World War I—and presumably in appreciation for this composition—he was presented a miniature class ring and made an honorary member of the graduating class of 1921.
Paul E. Bierley, The Works of John Philip Sousa (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1984), 96. Used by permission.