Who Was Ensign C. Markland Kelly?
There is perhaps no name that is more closely associated with the game of lacrosse than C. Markland Kelly, but many people are not aware of who he was, or why his name is synonymous with lacrosse.
Charles Markland Kelly, Jr. was born in Baltimore on September 22, 1916, the son of C. Markland and Leitha W. Kelly. Mark Kelly’s father was a successful business man and political figure in the city of Baltimore. He was a president of the Baltimore City Council, and the owner of Kelly Buick, located at the corner of Charles St. and Mt. Royal Ave.
Growing up, Mark Kelly attended Friends School and Gilman, and finished his secondary education at McDonogh School, where he graduated and also received the school’s highest honor, the “Dr. J.M.T. Finney Character Award.” He was an excellent lacrosse player during his prep career, and was an All-Maryland selection as a goalie while he attended Gilman.
After graduation, Mark Kelly enrolled at the University of Maryland, where he again excelled as a lacrosse player. In 1940, while only a sophomore, he was named to the first team of the Baltimore Sun’s “All Maryland College Lacrosse Teams of 1940.”
With the threat of an oncoming war becoming increasingly apparent, Mark left college in October, 1940, and applied to become a U.S. Navy aviation cadet. In August, 1941, he received his wings and was commissioned as an Ensign. He was assigned to duty onboard the USS Hornet (CV-8).
As part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Hornet was dispatched to the Western Pacific. As part of a fighter escort for bombers from the Hornet, Mark Kelly failed to return from the initial strike of the Battle of Midway, and was reported missing in action on June 4, 1942. The precise details of Mark Kelly’s fate were unknown, and when his father died, he was still in anguish over the lack of information about how his beloved son died.
In memory of his son, Mr. Kelly established the Ensign C. Markland Kelly Memorial Foundation. The foundation provided the initial funding for the Lacrosse Hall of Fame, and presents annual awards for outstanding high school and college lacrosse players. The foundation has also provided grants for schools, colleges, youth programs and other civic and cultural institutions. It has provided funding for American Legion posts, one of which has been named in his honor. The Ensign C. Markland Kelly American Legion Post was one of the earliest sponsors of our organization, and was the source of our name, “Kelly Post Lacrosse.”
In this photograph, taken as he was taking off, Mark Kelly is in the lead aircraft on the deck of the Hornet on June 4, 1942. Even though it has been over forty years since Kelly Post Lacrosse has been sponsored by the American Legion, it has kept the name, in honor of its namesake, Mark Kelly. To this day, the legacy of Mark Kelly can still be seen in the Kelly Post Lacrosse logo, which prominently features a Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat, the type of aircraft that Mark Kelly was piloting when he died defending his country.
All references and photographs reproduced from "The Last Flight of Ensign C. Markland Kelly, Junior, USNR," by Bowen P. Weisheit, Major, USMCR (Ret.). Published by The Ensign C. Markland Kelly, Jr. Memorial Foundation, Inc., Baltimore, Md. (Second Ed. 1996.)