Meredith now Admiral of the Chesapeake
GRASONVILLE — Vera Meredith used three words to describe her father, Capt. Eldridge Meredith: ambitious, fearless and generous.
Her father, who was named the 101st Admiral of the Chesapeake by Gov. Larry Hogan for his achievements as a waterman and for his advocacy of the Bay, was ambitious for working waking up early seven days a week for work on the water, fearless for being strong willed and generous for the kindness he showed his family and community — “a heart of gold,” she said.
Packed into a conference room at the Hilton Garden Inn in Grasonville on Thursday night, Feb. 23, friends, family and community members gathered to honor the man from Chester who spent 80 years tending the waters of the Chesapeake Bay as he received his admiral designation. Thursday was also Meredith’s 91st birthday, which all in attendance had the opportunity to celebrate.
The designation of Admiral of the Chesapeake is the highest honor of maritime environmentalism and advocacy the governor can bestow, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford told the audience. Sailors, journalists, conservations, elected officials and everyone in between have received the award since its creation in 1959, Rutherford said.
“Today offers a chance for all of us to celebrate a true living legend and a true Maryland icon,” Rutherford said. “Capt. Meredith’s independent and innovative spirit has guided him to success on and off the water.”
As a third generation waterman, following the footsteps of his father, Capt. Earl Meredith, and grandfather, Capt. Richard Meredith, Meredith harvested oysters, clams, crabs and fish throughout his 80 years on the Bay. Now, Meredith is captain of the Island Queen II, running a charter fishing business in the area.
“I really enjoyed it. I guess I worked hard,” he said. “No one can say work is going to hurt you,” referencing people he knew who became inactive after retiring and declined rapidly in health.
Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Jim Moran, who opened the ceremony, said with so many unknown “treasures” in the area, it’s “nice that we can acknowledge Capt. Meredith.”
During one of the county commission’s March meetings, Meredith and his family will be recognized further, said Vincent Leggett, event organizer and founder of Black Captains of the Chesapeake.
Official proclamations, citations and resolutions were given to Meredith by Maryland Senators Thomas Miller Jr., Stephen Hershey and Adelaide Eckardt, as well as Del. Michael Busch.
Dr. Samuel Little, president of the National Association of Affordable and Assisted Housing presented Meredith with the 2017 Trailblazer of the Year Award, which goes to “those who find a new pathway to keep people and communities vibrant,” he said.
To further tell Meredith’s extraordinary life story as a waterman, Robert Keddell, director of Educators Connecting Research to the K-16 Classroom, announced his organization is creating an educational package on Meredith that teaches students about not just maritime life in general, but specifically his life story.
“It’s very, very important that your legacy is known in ways that are exciting for kids,” he said.
After a benediction by Rev. Johnny Calhoun of Mt. Olive AME Church in Annapolis, the room sang “Happy Birthday” to Meredith.
“At the end of the day when the coolers are full and it’s time to go in,” Vera Meredith said,” we listen to his final words of the day: ‘catch one for the road, wind them in, we’re on our way. Save some fish for another day.’”
The event was hosted by Black Captains of the Chesapeake, a nonprofit organization dedicated to documenting the achievements and contributions of African Americans in the maritime industry, its mission statement reads.
Follow Mike Davis on Twitter: @mike_kibaytimes.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, right, with newly designated Admiral of the Chesapeake Eldridge Meredith, left, after a ceremony in Meredith’s honor on Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Hilton Garden Inn.