Happy 100th Anniversary to the Coast Guard – Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes

Happy 100th Anniversary to the Coast Guard act of 1915!

In case you missed my interview about Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes with Michigan Public Radio’s “Stateside with Cynthia Canty” program yesterday and would like to hear it, there is a podcast available on their website through this link.

The interview begins at about the 20 minute mark.

Listen Here.

On this day, January 28th, 1915 – President Woodrow Wilson put pen to paper and signed in to law the Coast Guard act of 1915, thereby combining the Revenue Cutter Service and the United States Coast Guard into a single service, The United States Coast Guard.

This marked a victory in a long-fought battle by the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes, Rev. William H. Law, who since 1900 had been lobbying the government of the  United States to provide better pay and pensions for members of the United States Life-Saving Service. The new act provided pay increases and pensions to those serving in the newly formed Coast Guard.


Duluth News Tribune – January 29 1915

“Sky Pilot of Inland Seas” Worked on Measure for Years

W. H. Law,  the  “Sky  pilot  of  the  Inland  Seas,”  is  the  happiest  man  between  Duluth  and  Pawtucket  Light  these  days.  He  has  been working for  years  to  obtain  the  passage  of  the  bill  which  puts  life  savers  on  a  par  with  Navy  men and naval  reservists  and –  this is the big feature of it – pension  them  on  retirement.

The bill passed the senate last week, and Mr.  Law, writing from Detroit to W.  H. Cook of  this  city  says:  “I  regard  the  passage  of  the  bill  as  a  birthday  present,  as  the  news  ca me  to  me  on  my  sixty-second  birthday.  I  am  delighted  over  the  victory  for  it  means so much to  the  brave  men  who  have  long  deserved  this  recognition  on  the  part  of  the  government.

The  bill  provides  a 10  per cent  increase  in  pay  at  the  end  of  every  five years of service  and  after 20  years  the chance to retire with 75 percent  of  the  salary  and  allowances  as  a  pension,  It  also  places  the  life  saving  service  and  the  revenue  cutter  service  in  a  new  department,   the  Unites States  coast  guards subject  to  orders  from  the  treasury  department.

The Bill will affect 2,000  men, 576 in 64  stations  on  the  Great  Lakes,  the  rest  in  224  ocean  stations.

For  24  years  W. H. Law  has  been  known  as  the  “sky  pilot”  of  the  Great  Lakes.  His parish extends from the Thousand Islands in the St.  Lawrence River to Duluth.  His  parishioners number  into  the  tens  of  thousands,  Each  year,  be  pays  several  visits  to  every  life-saving  and  light station  on  the  Great  Lakes  bringing  books,  delicacies,  mail  and  good  cheer  to  the  men.

Each year he addresses a personal letter to every man in every life-saving and Light station in American waters.  His lecture text is laughter and   optimism: His gospel optimism, laughter and happiness:  his sermon.  happiness,  optimism, good  cheer  and  laughter,  He  preaches the   doctrine  of  “fellowship  of  humanity.”

Happy 100th Anniversary to the Coast Guard act of 1915!



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John Kotzian was born in Rogers City, Michigan located on the shore of Lake Huron and raised some 30 miles away in Hillman, Michigan. He is the great-great-grandson of the “Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes”, Rev. William H. Law.

His passion for the Great Lakes and its history grew from the stories handed down through both sides of his family about Rev. Law’s travels and relatives lost in the sinking of the S.S. Carl D. Bradley.

He currently resides with his wife, Kimberly, in Brooklyn, MI.
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