John Stansbury Baylis was born on September 24, 1884 in Jamaica, NY. He attended the New York Nautical School (now SUNY Maritime College), receiving training on the schoolship "St. Mary's," and graduting in 1903. After graduation, he undertook a 16-month cruise around the world on the square-rigged, four-masted British Barque "Arrow," owned by Standard Oil. In 1905, he returned to the "St. Mary’s" as an instructor and Master-at-Arms, supervising cadets. On October 7, 1907, he was appointed a cadet at the Revenue Cutter School in Maryland (which eventually became the Coast Guard Academy) on the Cutter "Itasca." He graduated on May 28, 1910 with a commission as Third Lieutenant (Ensign).
For his first tour of duty, he served on the Cutter "Bear" in the Bering Sea and the Arctic. He was awarded a Marksman’s Medal in 1911. In July of that year, he was promoted to Second Lieutenant (Lieutenant Junior Grade). He served on board various ships from 1911 to 1916; in January 1916, for example, in the wake of the "Titanic" disaster, he was assigned to the Cutter "Seneca" to patrol the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and warn ships of icebergs in the area. He received numerous commendations for serving beyond the call of duty during rescue activities. To cite one example, on December 18, 1916, during a freezing gale, he came to the assistance of the Army Transport "Sumner," which had run aground off the coast of New Jersey.
On July 1, 1918, he was promoted to First Lieutenant, and then to Lieutenant Commander on September 21, 1918, and he was given awards for meritorious service during World War I. At the end of 1919, he was appointed Superintendent of the New York State Nautical School and became Commanding Officer of the Schoolship "Newport." He served in this capacity until May 1923, when he was detached from the school and assigned to command of the Cutter "Muscoutin" in Norfolk, VA, during which time he received the Treasury Gold Life Saving Medal. From 1925 to 1928, he commanded the USCG Destroyer "Pauling" and was involved in both rescue work and intercepting rum runners during Prohibition—work he continued with in 1931, when he served as Chief of Staff of the USCG Destroyer Force. In April 1929, he was appointed Registrar of the Coast Guard Institute, and then in 1932, he assumed command of the Cutter "Itasca," where he served as the U.S. Commissioner on patrols of U.S. island territories in the Pacific Ocean.
Between March 1935 and the summer of 1942, he served in various capacities in New York, including as Aide to the Captain of the Port, Assistant Commander of the New York District, and Captain of the Port. During World War II, he served with joint Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and FBI intelligence committees. He was promoted to Captain on May 25, 1941. In June 1942, he served as District Coast Guard Officer at San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he was placed in charge of Coast Guard activities in the Caribbean. As Captain of the Port in 1941 to 1942, he helped to capture German saboteurs on Long Island. Between March and December 1945, hw commanded the Coast Guard Training Station at Manhattan Beach, NY.
In January 1946, he was promoted to Commodore and designated Coordinator of the Port Security Unit in New York. He retired from this position on October 1946 at 62 years of age (the statutory age of retirement in the Coast Guard), after 39 years of active service.
Commodore Baylis died on November 24, 1971 and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.