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Naval Academy Head Barber Retires After 33 Years

Posted on: July 01, 2014 10:00 EDT by MC2 Jonathan Correa

After nearly 33 years as one of the first faces plebes see on their arrival at the U.S. Naval Academy, head barber Ernest Smith, affectionately known around the Yard as “Smitty,” retired on his last I-Day Jul 1.

A native of Annapolis, Md., Smith, 70, started working at the Naval Academy in 1981.

“Back then, they had three barber shops,” he said. He started in 7th Wing, but worked in all three throughout his Naval Academy career.

“Mr. Smith has been an invaluable member of the Naval Academy family for 33 years,” said Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Michael Miller. “He is part of the fabric of what makes this place so special. Everyone here plays a role in helping, mentoring and preparing our midshipmen for a career of service. Mr. Smith does not just cut hair; he encourages and supports our midshipmen in their challenging journey through the Naval Academy.”

Smith’s family has a history of Naval Academy service. His father worked as head chef in the King Hall galley and his sister works in the beauty shop. Smith said he initially started cutting hair for his father while he still lived at home. When the time came to choose what he was going to do as a career, he stuck with it, attending barber school in Baltimore.

He started cutting hair professionally in 1965 at the Crownsville State Hospital, where he worked until an opportunity opened at the Naval Academy.  

“It had more opportunity for me to move up,” said Smith, who held the second-highest position in the barber shop when he retired.

His coworkers held a going-away celebration for him June 23, attended by the Naval Academy commandant and superintendent. He was presented with a plaque and a framed flag that had flown over the Naval Academy.

“He is always smiling and treats everyone who comes through that door equally,” said Paula Clark, barber at the Bancroft hall barber shop.

Clark said Smith always put in the effort to make people feel comfortable, for example learning things about different cultures when talking to the international students.

“He takes the time to get to know you,” she said.

Smith plans to take a few weeks of well-deserved rest, but retirement won’t be all relaxation. He will continue to work part time at Moon’s Barber Shop on West St.

 “I work there part time right now, so it won’t be hard from me to pick up a few more hours here or there,” said Smith.

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