Robert Williams Daniel, born in Richmond but based in Philadelphia, travelled to England for his work as a banker. Returning home from one of these trips, Daniel, then 27, boarded the Titanic in Southampton on April 10, 1912 as a First Class passenger. He managed to survive the sinking, claiming that he lept into the water and was pulled into a lifeboat after swimming for some time, naked, but alive. Daniel was among the survivors rescued by the RMS Carpathia, disembarking in New York City on April 18.
His name made the newspapers in the days following the disaster, and again three years later when he married fellow Titanic survivor Eloise Smith. Smith was just 18 and newly pregnant when she and Lucien Smith, her husband of mere months, boarded the Titanic. Eloise survived, but, as was the fate of many men aboard the Titanic, Lucien did not. Though the marriage between Robert Daniel and Eloise did not last, it is no surprise that the press seemed eager to tell the story of love blossoming from the terrible tragedy.
Daniel remarried two more times after his marriage to Eloise, having a daughter with his second wife, Margery Durant Campbell, and a son with his third, Charlotte Bemiss Christian. In 1935, he was elected to Virginia’s Senate and held the seat until his death on December 20, 1940. He was buried in Richmond’s historic Hollywood Cemetery.
His son, Robert Williams Daniel, Jr., served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives for Virginia’s fourth congressional district from 1972 until 1983.