Richard P. Bailey, Ph.D.
June 11, 1910 – July 23, 2003
By Gene Pennington, Research Director
Richard P. Bailey, Naval Officer, circa 1943 - 1944
The Pennington Research Association lost one of its Honorary Members when Richard P. Bailey, Ph.D., died on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 at Annapolis, MD. Dr. Bailey was 93 at the time of his death.
Dick Bailey is survived by his daughter, Ann V. Bailey, long time Secretary of the Pennington Research Association. Ann learned of her father’s death while attending the 2003 Annual Reunion/Meeting in San Rafael, California. When the news of Dick’s death was shared with the other people attending the Reunion, we joined in one big group hug to comfort Ann.
Dick was well known for his dedication and hard work on behalf of the Pennington Research Association. Without his huge expenditure of time and effort I doubt very much if the Pennington Pedigrees would have continued. He was recognized for his work and dedication in 1991 when the Board of Directors conferred Honorary Membership on him.
Dick served in many positions with the Pennington Research Association. Dick served as Vice President and President and was our first Executive Director until he resigned in 1985 for health reasons.
Perhaps the greatest contribution that Dick made occurred around 1980 when Bee Holmes, the founder, had to turn over the reins due to health reasons. Dick reorganized the group and made it into a formal organization. In fact, Dick was the author of the first articles of association for the Pennington Research Association when we became an “official” organization on July 29, 1984.
Dick and several other founding members, including his cousin, Dr. Robert Laubach (also an Honorary Member of the Pennington Research Association), worked very hard to establish a solid foundation for us in those early days.
Over the years, Dick became very interested in genealogy and wrote several articles and books including ones about his family history. One of Dick's genealogy books is the primary source for Family Group 14, Edmund Pennington, born about 1753-1813, Montgomery Co., PA.
I met Dick for the first time at one of our Reunions several years ago. I was impressed with his friendly manner and his curiosity about my work with computers. It turns out that Dick was very involved with computers during his tenure at the U. S. Naval Academy and wanted to learn how the genealogy software programs worked.
He especially wanted to see how the genealogy information he had provided for the John French Master File (JFMF) was recorded and how it was displayed. When he first looked at the data on a large movie screen where the computer’s output was being displayed by a projector, he was very curious as to how we had made the family links. He had several questions and challenged some of the data that had been added since his original research.
At another Reunion a couple of years later in Syracuse, New York, I once again had the pleasure of meeting Dick and spent more time with him asking for his advice on some of the research issues facing our Research Committee. I found Dick to be most interested in our current research and he offered some excellent suggestions to help our efforts.
Dick relished the outdoor and physical life as much as the intellectual and academic pursuits that informed his professional life. He spent boyhood summers on his grandparents' farm in the village of Fairmount Springs and at the cottage at Patterson Grove, helping out, but finding time to play softball, as well as cowboys and Indians with his young cousins who lived in the same rural area. He developed a love for hiking and canoeing, the latter getting him into occasional trouble. At least once, he and a pal had to be rescued by fishermen from a rapidly flowing creek after the canoe tipped over.
Richard P. Bailey, the outdoors man! Probably taken while he was in High School near Patterson Grove, PA.
He turned a summer job as a surveyor's assistant into a hobby and in 1941 surveyed and mapped the boundaries of Patterson Grove. After World War II, he surveyed again for a location to construct a swimming pond, and with the help of other cottage holders, built the pool, which is still in use today.
After finishing Boys' Central High School in Philadelphia in 1927, he began an 8-year pursuit of a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania, on scholarship. He intended to be a classics major, having learned Greek and Latin in high school, but switched to mathematics as an undergraduate. He earned a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. at Penn, with a dissertation on probability theory. The dissertation is still on the shelves in the library at the University (he checked about 50 years later!).
After obtaining an appointment as an instructor at Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, with a character reference from John Wanamaker, founder of the famous department store (they were members of the same Presbyterian congregation), he and Natalie Bailey eloped in 1935 and settled in Easton, where daughter Ann was born in 1937.
Pearl Harbor interrupted his academic career and like many of his generation, he volunteered for service, despite his age. The Navy decided he could be useful in the Reserve and ordered him to Fort Schuyler, New York, for officers' training. A classmate there was Budd Schulberg, who later became a novelist and Hollywood screenwriter. One evening, Dick mentioned that he was having trouble memorizing the semaphore signals for a test the next day. Budd said that he had a fail-safe method for memorizing lists and he would teach it to Dick. The method turned out to be making up bawdy mnemonics for every item on the list. Dick caught on quickly, memorized the list, and aced the test the next day!
The Navy assigned him to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Waukegan, Illinois, from 1943 to 1945, where he organized and directed non-military educational programs for the sailors and also, as a bonus, learned to sail on Lake Michigan. He called that assignment his university president job.
His favorite anecdotes about the Great Lakes days were meeting the movie star Susan Hayward while he was Officer of the Day and she came on a morale-boosting visit, and the night he almost lost a troop train. He and a deputy were assigned to escort the personnel through Canada to an Eastern destination. The conductor offered Dick and his deputy the use of a sleeping car behind the sailors' cars, forgetting that the sleeping car was scheduled to be detached at a mid-point stop. Dick woke up in the silence of the nonmoving car and hailed the conductor, who signaled ahead to stop the train at the next station, put Dick and the other officer in a taxi, and reunited the officers with the troop train. An unusual side benefit of the experience was that, by traveling through Canada, Dick qualified for a $100 foreign military service bonus from the State of Pennsylvania, which he duly collected when his reserve duty ended.
The Navy finally figured out that he had a Ph. D. in mathematics and decided he was a natural for duty at the U.S. Naval Academy, in the Department of Mathematics. This was ironic, since he had applied twice for a job at the Naval Academy prior to World War 11 and been turned down.
He was retained as a civilian professor when his reserve days ended and eventually retired as a full professor in 1975. He was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus shortly after. He loved being at the Naval Academy and truly considered it his calling. He spent many years on the inter departmental research committee, helping to develop policy in that area; wrote the first textbook for midshipmen on using computers in the study of mathematics; designed the mace for Academy's faculty parade and was the first marshal of that academic parade, which is still part of every graduation ceremony.
During the late 1950's, an opportunity presented itself to be a consultant to a firm that had what was then a highly classified Navy contract to investigate the potential for using the sonar capabilities of dolphins in warfare. So Dick spent a few weeks in Key West, Florida, for at least three summers, observing and training dolphins. Then he employed his math and physics knowledge to demonstrate how the underwater sounds the dolphins emitted resembled submarine sonar, for example. Ever since, the Navy has trained dolphins for military exercises. [For current information on these uses, see the September issue of the Smithsonian magazine.)
Richard P. Bailey working around the yard. Taken in 2002 at Patterson Grove.
Everyone in PRA knows that genealogy became a passion in Dick's middle age, prompted by the previous family history assembled by an uncle. This pursuit took him to Switzerland for the Bailey line and to England and around the U.S. for the Penningtons. But he also found time to continue his passion for chess and bridge, the latter continuing into retirement days at Ginger Cove. He and his partner, another Ginger Cove resident, placed first in 15 of 16 tournaments until Dick decided to forego bridge in order to care for Natalie, who was in declining health.
Dick was interred next to Natalie in the Fairmount Springs cemetery, where five generations of the Edmund (group 14) line are buried and space is held for Ann. Edmund is buried north of Philadelphia and his son, Jesse, at Nordmont. Then some of Jesse's descendants moved to the Fairmount Springs area to establish the farm and remain for over 150 years.
Memorials may be sent to the Pennington Research Association, Inc., c/o Steve Kelly, PRA Treasurer, 110 Pineledge Road, Camillus, NY 13031 designating either the library or the research fund, or to Patterson Grove Camp Meeting Assn., Inc., C/O Joan Franklin, 26 West Creek Rd., Benton, PA 17814.
Donations to the PRA in Dick's name are welcome and can be made by on line.
Click here to use our on line donation page.