Clarence S. Ridley


The son of Judge and Mrs. William Ridley, Clarence S. Ridley was born on June 22, 1883, in Corydon, Harrison County, Indiana. After his early schooling in his native state, he entered West Point Military Academy on July 11, 1901. Graduating with high honors and fourth in a class of 114, he was commissioned second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, June 13, 1905.

Following tours of duty at Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley, during 1905 and 1906, he was ordered to Cuba in February 1907, for approximately four months. Upon his return he was promoted, to first lieutenant on June 9 of that year. The following year he graduated from the Engineer School at Washington Barracks. From 1909 to 1912 he served with troops in the Hawaiian and Philippine islands and at Fort Leavenworth.

In October 1912, at the age of 29, he reached his Captaincy and was assigned to river and harbor work in North Carolina, where he was in charge of the construction of two sets of locks and dams, and later of all river and harbor works in the Washington-North Carolina district. In 1915 he married Edna E. Taft.

In 1916, he was assigned duty in the office of the Chief of Engineers, Washington, D.C., where he directed the development of the Engineer Officer Reserve Corps. He was promoted to Major in 1917, and in August of the same year was appointed to the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel. In October 1917, he was appointed colonel and senior military aide to President Wilson, and supervised the care of public buildings and grounds in Washington D.C. His duties included construction of the Arlington Memorial in Arlington Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial in Potomac Park. He also served as executive officer of the National Commission of Fine Arts, as well as a member of the first Zoning Commission of the District of Columbia.

While the president’s aide, he was decorated on October 30, 1919 by the late King Albert of Belgium at the White House, as an Officer of the Order of Leopold.

Coming to the Isthmus in May 1921 to assume his duties as assistant maintenance engineer, Ridley had an opportunity to direct many of the departments of the Canal at a time when the organization was entering a period of settled operation and maintenance. Ridley was appointed Governor of the Panama Canal Zone on August 27, 1936, a position he held until 1940. Under his tenure, the United States rules of measurement of vessels as a factor in determining Panama Canal tolls were abolished on August 24, 1937, and the Panama Canal rules were established as the sole means of measurement for determining the tonnage of vessels for Panama Canal tolls. The deepening of the Pacific entrance channel from Miraflores Locks to the sea buoys, including the Balboa inner harbor, was completed, excavating more than 11 million cubic yards.

Ridley retired on June 30, 1947, and died on July 26, 1969 in Carmel, California.