Captain of the Titanic
January 27, 1850 – April 15, 1912
Smith joined the White Star Line in March 1880 as the Fourth Officer of the Celtic. He served aboard the company's liners to Australia and to New York, where he quickly rose in stature. In 1887, Smith received his first White Star command, the SS Republic. In 1888, Smith earned his Extra Master's Certificate and joined the Royal Naval Reserve (thus enabling him to append his name with "RNR"), qualifying as a full Lieutenant. This meant that in a time of war, Smith and his ship could be called upon to serve by the Royal Navy. Because of his position as a Commander in the Royal Naval Reserve, Smith had the distinction of being able to fly the Blue Ensign of the R.N.R.; most ships flew the Red Duster of the merchant marine.
On 12 July 1887, Smith married Sarah Eleanor Pennington. Their daughter, Helen Melville Smith, was born in Waterloo, Lancashire, in 1898. The family lived in an imposing red brick, twin-gabled house, named "Woodhead", on Winn Road, Portswood, Southampton. According to his daughter, Captain Smith loved cigars and the smoke from them. He wouldn't let anyone into his study while he was smoking because he didn't want the ring of smoke to be disturbed.
It is not known how Smith died on the night of the sinking. In Robert Ballard's book, The Discovery of the Titanic, he claims that Smith went into the bridge at 2:13 a.m., ten minutes before the final sinking. This idea is used by the 1997 Titanic film. Working near Collapsible B, Junior Marconi Officer Harold Bride reported seeing Smith dive into the sea from the open bridge minutes before the final plunge began. One story states he carried a child to the overturned collapsible B after the sinking and swam off to freeze in the water. The Titanic struck the iceberg at around 11:40 p.m., but did not sink until around 2:20 a.m. the following day. This would make Captain Smith's date of death April 15, 1912.