Navy Author's Bio Pages


Rear Admiral Ridley McLean U.S.N. (dec.)

from "Naval History and Heritage Command"

10 November 1872 – 12 November 1933

Early Life

Ridley McLean was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee,[1] to Thornton and Sallie (Ridley) McLean.[2]  Thornton, the son of Kentucky Congressman Finis Ewing McLean, was in the banking business in Pulaski.  Sallie died on November 22, 1872, just 12 days after giving birth to her only child.[3]  Thornton and Ridley soon left for California, lived there for a decade, and returned to Murfreesboro around 1883.  Thornton died in 1887, leaving Ridley in the care of his maternal uncle, Army Captain B.L. Ridley, and his wife.  After two years at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Ridley was appointed to the Naval Academy by Congressman James D. Richardson, and commenced on May 20, 1890.


Early Career

After graduation from the Naval Academy in 1894, one of McLean’s first assignments was to the gunboat USS Marietta during the Reyes Rebellion in Nicaragua in February 1900.  Attached to the staff of Rear Admiral Louis Kempff[4] on board the flagship, USS Kentucky, he participated in Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and the Philippine insurrection during 1901-1902.  In 1902 LT McLean wrote The “Bluejacket’s Manual” for the United States Naval Institute, a book intended to provide information useful to new recruits and be a reference for every person in Naval service.  In 1903 he contributed a chapter titled ‘Practical Naval Gunnery’ to the Text Book of Ordinance and Gunnery.  In 1904 he was assistant to LCDR William Sims, Inspector of target practice and in 1906 was given orders to report to the USS Virginia.  This tour would be cut short upon receipt of new orders to the staff of the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, Rear Admiral Charles S. Sperry.[5]  LCDR McLean was on the Admiral’s flagship the USS Connecticut on its tour around the world in the Great White Fleet from 1907-1909.  Following staff duty LCDR McLean was Atlantic Fleet ordnance officer before assuming duties as the Executive Officer on board the USS Florida.  In 1913 Commander McLean assumed what is normally a Captain billet as Judge Advocate General of the US Navy, a position he held until which entitled him the rank of Captain in title only.  In December 1916 he received orders to become Commanding Officer of the USS Columbia through May 1917.


When World War I broke out Commander McLean served as Chief of Staff for the Battleship Force 1, Atlantic Fleet under VADM Albert Grant until 1918 at which time he was chosen to become the Commanding Officer of the USS New Hampshire, escorting allied convoys

Post War

After a short tour as Commanding officer on the USS >i>New Hampshire, he became the CO of the USS Nebraska September 1918-September 1919.[6]  At the same time he was permanently appointed to the rank of Captain and for the next few years McLean was stationed at the Army War College in Washington D.C.[7]  From June 1922 through April 1924 Captain McLean was CO of the USS Arkansas.[8]  Assuming the role as Director of Naval Communications in July 1924, CAPT McLean pioneered the use of shortwave radio communications when he authorized the experiment on board the USS Seattle on the 1925 cruise of Australia and New Zealand.  Promoted to Rear Admiral in 1927 and as Commander of Battleforce Submarines using the submarine tender USS Holland as his flagship.  Rear Admiral McLean fought for submarine sustainability and flexibility to fight long ways from home and for extended periods.

Personal Life

In November 1916 Commander McLean married Olive Gale Hill and became stepfather to her two children (Olive Beatrice and Gale) from a previous marriage.


In November 12, 1933 at the age of 61, Rear Admiral McLean, Commander of Battleship Division 3 died suddenly from a fatal heart attack aboard his flagship the USS Nevada, while at anchor in San Francisco bay.  The following day funeral services were held on board the Nevada while the flagged draped coffin of the Rear Admiral lay on the deck.  Crews from all 50 warships in San Francisco were summoned to stand at attention during the service.  After the service was complete the Nevada steamed through Golden Gate, passing the USS Pennsylvania as she fired a thirteen gun salute.  His body was later interned at Arlington National Cemetery.


1. 1900 US Federal Census. Retrieved on October 20, 2010.
2. Sorley, Merrow Egerton (1935). Lewis of Warner Hall: the history of a family. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co.
3. Sallie Ridley McLean Memorial Retrieved on October 20, 2010.
4. Register of the Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy.
United States Bureau of Naval Personnel, United States Navy Dept, United States Bureau of Navigation – 1900
5. “Finding Men For The Navy” Evening Post, New York, January 26, 1907
6. BB-14 USS NEBRASKA NavSource Online: Battleship Photo Archive
7. Register of the Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy. United States Bureau of Naval Personnel,
United States Navy Dept, United States Bureau of Navigation – 1922
8. BB-33 USS ARKANSAS NavSource Online: Battleship Photo Archive
9. Lewis of Warner Hall: the history of a family by Merrow Egerton Sorley
10. Ridley McLean Arlington National Cemetery