Legacy: The Midgett Family

Written by Mr. Bob Hinds,
Coast Guard Retiree Services Program Manager

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Llewellyn "Lew" Daniel Midgett gives remarks on his family history and his career in the Coast Guard at a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., May 19, 2017. Midgett joined the Coast Guard at 17 years old in 1948 and was the fifth company to complete "boot camp" at Training Center Cape May, N.J. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings.

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Llewellyn “Lew” Daniel Midgett gives remarks on his family history and his career in the Coast Guard at a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., May 19, 2017. Midgett joined the Coast Guard at 17 years old in 1948 and was the fifth company to complete “boot camp” at Training Center Cape May, N.J. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings.

Near a section of a hallway dedicated to the Coast Guard within the Pentagon, among pictures of John Allen Midgett Jr., namesake of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Midgett, and Rasmus Midgett – two of seven Midgett family members awarded the Gold Life Saving Medal, the Coast Guard Retiree Services Program hosted a ceremony for retired Chief Warrant Officer Llewellyn “Lew” Daniels Midgett.

Lew, 86, may be the oldest of more than 200 members of the Midgett family (also spelled Midgette, modern variants of early Midyett) who have served in the U.S. Life Saving Service, U.S. Lighthouse Service and/or U.S. Coast Guard since the late 18th century – a family legacy unprecedented among the armed services of our country.

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Llewellyn "Lew" Midgett stands with his family after a ceremony in his honor at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., May 19, 2017. Midgett's family surprised him with the ceremony expecting only to go on a tour of the Pentagon. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings.

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Llewellyn “Lew” Midgett stands with his family after a ceremony in his honor at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., May 19, 2017. Midgett’s family surprised him with the ceremony expecting only to go on a tour of the Pentagon. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings.

In thanks to Lew and the Midgett family, the Retiree Services Program director and the Coast Guard chief historian provided historical highlights of the accomplishments of both Lew and his family.

The Midgetts have been in North Carolina since the late 18th century, settling on the Outer Banks where there is evidence members of the family participated in saving shipwrecked mariners and passengers before there was an organized life-saving service. There in the Outer Banks, the name “Midgett” is as common as “Smith” is in the rest of the country.

Memorabilia and gifts sit atop a table before being presented to retired U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Llewellyn "Lew" Daniel Midgett at a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., May 19, 2017. The ceremony was held in honor of Midgett's family and his 30 years of service to the Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings.

Memorabilia and gifts sit atop a table before being presented to retired U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Llewellyn “Lew” Daniel Midgett at a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., May 19, 2017. The ceremony was held in honor of Midgett’s family and his 30 years of service to the Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings.

With the advent of the Life Saving Service, over 200 Midgetts have served in the Coast Guard and its predecessor branches including the Lighthouse Service where they ran the famous and beautiful Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Records indicate the first Midgett to serve was L. Bannister Midgett, who was appointed as a keeper to an Outer Banks lifesaving station in 1874.

The Chicamocomico Station, in service for 78 years, had only three keepers…and all three were Midgetts. The last keeper, Capt. Levene Midgett, had a crew of 16, and 11 of these were Midgetts too!

In 1972 there were over 30 Midgetts serving in the Coast Guard. No current records of how many are serving today but at least one is the Pacific Area commander, Vice Adm. Fred Midgette.

No one can question their bravery, 10 Midgetts have been awarded the Coast Guard highest awards for saving lives – seven Gold Lifesaving Medals and three Silver Lifesaving Medals have been awarded to members of the Midgett family.

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Llewellyn "Lew" Midgett presents his officer's sword to Rear Adm. Scott McKinley after a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., May 19, 2017. The Midgett family is the only family to claim such a dedication to serving in the Coast Guard with over 200 members of the family serving since 1874. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings.

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Llewellyn “Lew” Midgett presents his officer’s sword to Rear Adm. Scott McKinley after a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., May 19, 2017. The Midgett family is the only family to claim such a dedication to serving in the Coast Guard with over 200 members of the family serving since 1874. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings.

Their dedication to saving life at sea is unquestioned, and so is their humility. As one family members stated: “They’ve got salt water in their veins! The sea was all they had.” Another stated: “Back then, there wasn’t much to do down there. You could either sit around and fish or you could go out and save lives. The Midgetts choose to save lives. Now I guess it is a tradition.”

Graves Midgett, who’s five of six sons followed him into service, said, “When you’re raised around the water, you don’t see the danger in it.”

After the recitation of his family’s legacy, Lew thanked all who helped to surprise him and honor him with this event. He shared stories of his family and childhood, and talked highly of his 30 years in the Coast Guard. He was then presented with a few gifts before presenting his Coast Guard officer’s sword to Rear Adm. Scott McKinley for placement in the section of the hallway dedicated to the Coast Guard at the Pentagon.

Michael Midgett, 11, holds his grandfather's sword in the Coast Guard hall at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., May 19, 2017. The Midgett family presented the sword to the Coast Guard Pentagon liaison in hopes of hanging the sword on the wall along with two of their family members already displayed. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings.

Michael Midgett, 11, holds his grandfather’s sword in the Coast Guard hall at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., May 19, 2017. The Midgett family presented the sword to the Coast Guard Pentagon liaison in hopes of hanging the sword on the wall along with two of their family members already displayed. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings.

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