He was graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1888, and commissioned ensign in 1890.
During the Spanish-American War he served in the gunboat Castine of the North Atlantic Fleet. In 1905 he was made executive officer of the monitor Terror, and in 1906 engineer officer of the battleship Tennessee. Two years later he became executive officer of the same ship, and was transferred to the navy yard at Puget Sound in 1909, being raised to the grade of commander the same year. After completing his tour of duty here in 1913, he commanded successively the cruisers Charleston and Denver. He was raised to the grade of captain on July 1, 1914, and took command in the same year of the battleship California. In 1915 he was made commander of the battleship Colorado and was then assigned to the San Diego, retaining that command until July 1, 1916, when he was sent to the Naval War College at Newport. When the United States entered the World War in 1917, he was chief of the first naval district with headquarters at Boston. In July of that year he was placed in command of the transport Mount Vernon, formerly the German liner Kronprinzessin Cecilie, which had been taken over by the United States for naval transport service. After a short period of liaison work with the army in the spring of 1918, he was given command of the battleship New Mexico, the first electric-drive battleship in the American navy. The year following the war he was made chief-of-staff at the Naval War College. In 1918 he was commissioned rear admiral and, from 1920 to 1922, commanded the destroyer force in the Atlantic Fleet. He was made assistant to the chief of naval operations in 1922 and served in this position until May 1923. He was then ordered to duty as commandant of the eleventh naval district and naval operating base with headquarters at San Diego, Cal. In 1926 he was given command of the Scouting Fleet for two years, with the rank of vice admiral, and was then ordered back to his former duty at San Diego. In his forty-two years of active service he became one of the most notable figures of the American sea force, having commanded some of the best fighting units in the service, as well as having risen to the highest rank in the power of the navy to bestow. At his death he was third in rank by reason of seniority in his grade.
In 1908 he married Mrs. Juliette Winston Graham Bixby, who survived him at his death in San Diego, California, United States