Queen Elizabeth II touched countless lives around the world during her illustrious 70-year reign as Great Britain’s monarch.
One of those who was saddened by the passing of the queen last week was Rogersville resident Hubert Clinton Hagood.
Hagood served in a U.S. Navy honor guard during a 1957 state visit by Queen Elizabeth to the U.S. It was an experience that Hagood, then 22 years old, still vividly recalls.
A photograph of Hagood’s unit being inspected by Queen Elizabeth and husband Prince Phillip occupies a prominent place on the wall of the Hawkins County man’s kitchen.
Hagood joined the Navy in August 1957. He was in boot camp at Recruit Training Command of the U.S. Naval Training Center in Bainbridge, Maryland, when he volunteered to join the base camp drill team.
“We were supposed to go to the Tonight Show and be part of the show but that was cancelled. We were ordered to go to New York to stand honor guard for Queen Elizabeth. I got a picture of my drill team with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip inspecting us and welcoming us,” Hagood said.
Queen Elizabeth’s first state visit to the U.S. in October 1957 marked the 350th anniversary of the first permanent British settlement on the North American continent, in Jamestown, Virginia. The queen, then 31, was greeted at the White House by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie.
A White House state dinner was held in the queen’s honor. Among other activities Queen Elizabeth participated in during her visit was a tour of the Jamestown Settlement exhibits and attending a football game at the University of Maryland.
“We welcomed her in and we saw her off on the plane as she left New York,” Hagood said.
Hagood stood at attention with the honor guard as the queen arrived in New York.
“She immediately got off the plane and we were at the side where she got off and she came through and inspected us. She left in a caravan,” he said. “There were many dignitaries there and my drill team. We were dismissed when she left and we went to a naval base on Long Island.”
Hagood was struck by the queen’s appearance.
“She was a very pretty woman at that age,” he said. “She always wore a hat.”
Hagood added, “She was a very dignified person. I don’t know much about monarchy, but I know she handled herself like a queen.”
Hagood also paid close attention to Prince Phillip, consort to the queen for 73 years until his death in 2021.
“He always walked two or three steps behind her,” Hagood said.
Hagood said Queen Elizabeth walked within feet of where he stood at attention.
“She walked right by. I could have reached out and touched her,” he recalled. “It was like when you stand inspection by an admiral. They don’t stop and talk to everybody, but they looked at everybody. We just stood at attention as she inspected us.”
Hagood said his drill team awoke at 4 a.m. daily and trained for months before the queen’s visit.
“We were pretty good,” he said.
In a letter of appreciation from commanding officer G.D. Harrelson dated Oct. 30, 1957, Hagood was recognized for his exemplary participation in the honor guard detail.
“By your outstanding military bearing and appearance, you brought great credit to the United States Navy, and to this command,” Harrelson wrote.
“It is with pleasure that I express my sincere appreciation to you for your excellent performance on this occasion,” the commanding officer wrote.
Hagood trained in machinery repair and completed his four years of service in the Navy in 1961. Hagood’s home port was Long Beach, California, where he served aboard the destroyer tender U.S.S. Hamul. His tour of duty included two cruises to the Far East, where he visited several Asian countries.
Hagood, now 87, retired in 1999 as mechanical supervisor after 17 years with Dodge Industrial, Inc., in Rogersville. The events of the past week brought back memories of the momentous event Hagood participated in as a young man.
Hagood followed the queen’s prominent role in world affairs over the years from his Rogersville home.
“Any time they had anything on the news about her I always watched,” he said.
Hagood’s role in Queen Elizabeth’s visit is one of the highlights of his military service.
“I loved my time in serving my country,” he said. “We had a ball during her visit.”