Herbert Hamilton Ward (Baltimore Sun / March 21, 2012)

Capt. Herbert Hamilton Ward III, a retired career naval officer who was active in Upper Chesapeake Bay environmental matters and other issues, died March 17 from complications of a blood clot at Gilchrist Hospice in Towson.

The Broadmead retirement community resident was 91.

The son of a lawyer and a homemaker, Herbert Hamilton Ward III was born and raised in Wilmington, Del., where he graduated in 1939 from Friends School.

He was a member of an accelerated wartime class at the Naval Academy, from which he graduated in 1943.

Commissioned an officer, Captain Ward participated in the North African landings and the invasion of Sicily. He was later transferred to the Pacific Theater, where he served as executive officer aboard the destroyer USS McNair.

After the war, he earned master's degrees in both engineering and mathematics from the Navy's Post-Graduate School, family members said.

Captain Ward worked in the Office of Naval Research and, in addition to being assigned to the Pentagon, held assignments in London.

He retired from active duty in 1972, and his decorations included the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars and the Legion of Merit for distinguished service.

In his retirement, Captain Ward turned his attention to environmental matters that affected the Upper Chesapeake Bay. He had a home at the confluence of the Elk River and the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.

He was a co-founder and served as president for a decade of the Upper Chesapeake Bay Watershed Association and had been a member and a former president of the Maryland Conservation Council.

From his home on Oldfield Point, he had a sweeping view of passing vessels and ships.

What raised Captain Ward's ire were the pleasure boats and ships that traveled the canal at high speeds, which created wakes that swamped smaller vessels, endangered their occupants and caused shoreline erosion, especially along the banks of the unprotected Elk River.

Freighters, tankers, bulk-carriers and other commercial shipping also steamed through the area at high speeds.

"A ship came by at a high rate of speed and threw such a wake that my sister was tossed from a boat. My grandfather jumped in and saved her life. Otherwise she would have drowned," said a son, Richard Hamilton Ward of Elkton, who now lives in the Oldfield Point home.

"He'd sit there with a stopwatch timing a ship and then would call his buddies at the Coast Guard, who'd get someone to go out and talk to the skipper," he said.

Captain Ward told The Baltimore Sun in a 1977 interview, "To do anything, I would have to identify the offending boat, take the owner to court and prove specific damages — an absolutely impractical situation."

"What can I do practically," he said, "is when I get mad enough, jump in my Boston Whaler chase the boat down and holler at him."

"Herb was the guardian of the Upper Chesapeake and famous for running along boats and great tankers going through the canal in his 16-foot Boston Whaler," said Tom Horton, former Baltimore Sun environmental columnist and author. "He'd get right up under the bows of those big ships."

He became legendary for once chasing an ocean-going fishing vessel several miles at 30 knots.

Captain Ward was known for issuing speeding tickets or "slowdown notices" to offending captains.