The Legacy of Captain Buddy Compton

May 4, 2015

The Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) mourns the loss of Captain Buddy Compton, Director of Inland Training at the Institute’s Center for Maritime Education in Paducah, KY. Buddy died at his home on the evening of April 28, 2015, at the age of 64. He announced plans to retire from SCI in September.

Over his memorable career at SCI, Buddy helped develop and teach Advanced Pilothouse Management Training classes to inland river captains and pilots at the Institute’s center in Paducah, KY. A veteran mariner himself, Buddy worked on the water and later shoreside in operations for Ingram Barge Co. and Excell Marine Corp. He came to work for SCI in 2008. His experience rapidly earned him respect from fellow mariners, and his ability to translate the complexity of maritime rules and regulations into understandable and practical terms meant mariners sought out Buddy’s opinion. He engaged students as professional peers, valuing their opinions and on-the-job skills.

Buddy served on several river industry navigation committees, including River Industry Action Committee, Lower Mississippi River Committee, and Illinois River Carrier’s Association. Over the years, Buddy received five United States Coast Guard Commendations, a United States Army Corps of Engineers Public Service Commendation and the Vice President Al Gore Hammer Award. He also coauthored the Upper Mississippi River Crisis Action Plan.

About a year ago, Buddy sat down with SCI’s Archivist, Johnathan Thayer, for a conversation as part of the Institute’s American Merchant Marine Veterans Oral History Project. Colleagues and friends knew Buddy as an excellent storyteller, and in these recorded interviews he lives up to that reputation, telling tales from his first voyage, through becoming a port captain, to coming to SCI as Director of Inland Training. Buddy’s expertise and concern for the wellbeing of others shine through in these clips. He speaks as a reconciler and a collaborator, never taking sole credit for successes, always referring to “group effort.”

Listen to interviews with Captain Buddy Compton on SCI’s AMMV Oral History Project’s archive.

Buddy’s legacy leaves a mark on the maritime industry—through hundreds of students, colleagues and friends touched by his selfless service and humility. The Director of SCI’s Center for Maritime Education, Captain Stephen Polk, writes of Buddy, “His knowledge, professionalism, and passion for our industry were unmatched, and he truly had a heart of a servant.”

Buddy is survived by his wife of 17 years, Cynthia Hood Compton; his daughter, Carolyn Dean and husband, Michael; his son, Doug Compton and wife Jacqueline; his stepsons, Lou Whitaker and wife, Rebekah, and Rod Whitaker and wife Krystal; his sister, Janet Compton Dexter and husband, Freddie; his grandchildren, Ethan Dean, Olivia Dean, Kaitlyn Compton, Trace Compton, Jaxon Compton, Samantha Whitaker and Abigail Whitaker; and several nieces and nephews.

His funeral will take place on Tuesday, May 5 at Paducah’s Milner and Orr Funeral Home, with visitation from 11:00 am –1:00 pm and a memorial service at 1:00 pm.