Before he became the "architect of naval aviation," Rear Adm. William Moffett was a Charleston boy who went by "Billy."

As a child in the 1870s, he raced down St. Philip Street with his sister trying to make his kite soar 30-plus years before Orville and Wilbur Wright took their famous first flight on the dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

But the Charleston boy would grow up to be a Navy man and Medal of Honor recipient who became one of the first to recognize the value of combining forces by sea and by air despite never being an aviator himself.

For his contributions, Moffett Field Naval Air Station in northern California bears his name.

And this month, on the street where Moffett grew up flying kites, a 115-pound bronze marker now commemorates his birthplace. 

The plaque is mounted on the street side of the College of Charleston's Maybank Hall at 65 St. Philip Street, which is the lot where Moffett's childhood home once stood.

"There's no doubt that Admiral Moffett was a forward-thinking pioneer of naval warfare," Rear Adm. Timothy Kuehhas said at a recent commemoration ceremony. "Naval aviation as a decisive form of warfare was at the time an unproven form of warfare. It had many more skeptics and opponents in the U.S. than it had supporters. But one of its most zealous advocates was of course Admiral Moffett."

After World War I, Moffett would write about the need for combining air power with naval prowess.

"Naval aviation must go to sea on the back of the fleet," Moffett wrote in 1920. "The fleet and naval aviation are one and inseparable."

That year, the Navy would commission three aircraft carriers: The Langley, the Lexington and the Saratoga.

The following spring, Moffett would become the first chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics. He would hold the post for 12 years.

Moffett's grandson, retired Marine Corps Col. William Moffett III, flew to Charleston for the birthplace dedication. He never met the man for whom he was named but said he felt compelled to be there.

"I thought a lot about what I'd heard about my grandfather and it was only word of mouth. But it makes me more appreciative of our family legacy," he said.

The marker was commissioned by the Charleston Commandery of the Naval Order of the United States, whose mission is the preservation of American naval history.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.