Source: Journal of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Surgeon General Presley Marion Rixey, United States Navy”
Author(s): Pilcher, James Evelyn
Date of publication: May 1902
Volume number: 10
Issue number: 4
|Pilcher, James Evelyn. “Surgeon General Presley Marion Rixey, United States Navy.” Journal of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States May 1902 v10n4: pp. 629-31.|
|Presley M. Rixey; McKinley physicians.|
|Alfonso XIII; Ida McKinley; William McKinley; Presley M. Rixey; Theodore Roosevelt.|
|The editorial is accompanied on a preceding unnumbered page by a photograph of Presley M. Rixey.|
Surgeon General Presley Marion Rixey, United States Navy
THE inevitable change consequent upon the progress of time has brought to the
head of the naval medical department one of its most distinguished and capable
officers in the person of Rear Admiral Presley Marion Rixey, who was appointed
Surgeon General on the tenth of last February. Admiral Rixey was born in Culpeper
county [sic], Virginia, on the fourteenth of July, 1852 and received
his early education at schools in Culpeper and Warrenton. His family identified
itself with the Confederate cause during the civil war which brought financial
ruin upon its members in company with so large a proportion of our old southern
families. Undaunted by difficulties, however, he sought and achieved an education,
both general and professional, receiving the doctorate in medicine from the
University of Virginia in 1873. He then undertook to extend his practical acquaintance
with his profession by attendance upon clinics and hospitals in Philadelphia
during the remainder of the year, presenting himself before the naval examining
board early in 1874 as a candidate for appointment in the medical corps of the
He was commissioned Assistant Surgeon in the navy on the twenty-eighth of January, 1874 and set out upon that long period of service which has just been crowned with the highest honors attainable in his corps. He was first assigned to duty on the Receiving Ship “Sabine,” but soon transferred to the “Congress,” then on the European station and later at the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia, where she represented the navy. He was detached in 1876 and ordered to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital where he remained until he passed  his examination for promotion to the grade of Passed Assistant Surgeon in 1877. He then took station at the Norfolk (Va.) Navy Yard as attending surgeon, where he served until assigned to a three years’ tour of special duty on the “Tallepoosa” in 1879. He was on the flagship “Lancaster” from 1884 to 1887 on the European and South Atlantic Stations, and on the “Dolphin” from 1893 to 1896. During the Spanish war he applied for active sea duty, but his services were deemed so essential in Washington that he could be spared only to make a brief voyage to Cuba on the ambulance ship “Solace.” The twelve years of service not enumerated above were passed on special duty as attending surgeon at Washington. In 1888 he was promoted to the grade of Surgeon and in 1900 to that of Medical Inspector.
During his long service in Washington he was honored with the confidence of many of the most prominent men of the country, and for the last three years was physician to the Executive Mansion. It was in especial recognition of the value of his distinguished services in the latter capacity that President McKinley promised him the surgeon-generalcy of the navy when the next vacancy should occur, a promise which President Roosevelt fulfilled. In connection with his duty at the Executive Mansion, it became necessary for him to accompany the President upon all journeys taken by the Chief Executive, and thus it happened that he was in Buffalo when President McKinley was assassinated. He had been detailed by the President to accompany Mrs. McKinley to the Milburn House, whilst he received the people, so that he was not immediately at hand when the President was shot, but was promptly summoned so that he was present and assisted with the operation, and took official charge of the case. Here he displayed in the highest degree those qualities which evidenced not only professional acquirements of an extensive range, but executive ability and diplomatic faculties of a remarkable character. The skill and devotion which he displayed in the management of the case of the President and the almost equally exacting case of the President’s invalid wife won for him the admiration and affection of the entire country. 
Admiral Rixey is a member of the American Medical Association and a member by invitation of the Washington (D. C.) Medical Society. He has been an active member of the Association of Military Surgeons since 1895, and during the present year has served as a member of the Executive Committee.
On the occasion of an explosion on the Spanish Caravel “Santa Maria” in the harbor of New York in 1893 he rendered prompt and generous assistance to the officers and crew of the vessel, a courtesy which the King of Spain, Alfonso XIII, recognized by decorating him with the Order of Naval Merit.
His thorough understanding of the needs of the service is evinced by his prompt application to Congress for a material increase in the number of his corps. His request is accompanied by evidence of the necessity for the desired action so convincing that there can be no doubt of favorable action upon it. The accession of Admiral Rixey augurs good fortune for the naval service and particularly for the medical department, which is sure to be developed and advanced by the sagacity, tact and ability which has characterized all the official acts of his successful career.