Charles R. Larson,
Charles R. Larson
Dan Rodricks, The Baltimore Sun
Charles R. Larson, the onetime commander-in-chief of military forces in the
Pacific who became superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy to restore
discipline and morale after his alma mater had been rocked by the largest
cheating scandal in its history, died early Saturday at his home in Annapolis.
He was 77.
Larson's death was confirmed by his son-in-law, Cmdr. Wesley Huey, a faculty
member at the academy. Commander Huey said the four-star admiral had been
diagnosed with leukemia two years ago.
Larson's death is a great loss for the Navy family and the U.S. Naval
Academy," said Vice Admiral Walter E. "Ted" Carter Jr., who took
over as the academy's superintendent Wednesday. "He was a great man who
served his nation with distinction, honor and dignity."
native of South Dakota, Admiral Larson went to Annapolis in the 1950s, the first
step in a naval career that would eventually span 40 years and most of the
globe. After his graduation from the academy, where he was a classmate of John
McCain, now a U.S. senator from Arizona, Admiral Larson became both an
aircraft-based aviator and a nuclear submariner, twin achievements considered
rare for a Navy man.
served as a junior officer on two ballistic missile submarines and three attack
submarines. According to a 2002 article in The Baltimore Sun, two of his seven
distinguished service medals were for his command of the USS Halibut, a
submarine that retrieved sensitive equipment from Soviet vessels and tapped into
Russian communications cables on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.
Larson was the first naval officer selected as a White House Fellow, and he
served as naval aide to President Richard M. Nixon.
1979, at age 43, he became the second-youngest admiral in U.S. history.
Larson first served as superintendent of the Naval Academy in the mid-1980s. A
decade later, after having had one of the largest responsibilities in the
military as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Larson
returned to Annapolis for an unusual second stint as superintendent. At the
time, the academy was reeling from scandal. Twenty-four midshipmen had been
expelled and 88 had been disciplined for sharing and lying about a stolen copy
of an electrical engineering exam.
goals are very, very simple," Admiral Larson told a gathering of academy
officials, alumni and midshipmen in 1994. "No. 1: to develop character. No.
2: to prove the worth of the service academies to the people of the United
many accounts, Admiral Larson accomplished that mission. He was widely credited
with shaping the academy into a more disciplined institution and with
establishing a curriculum that focused on character development.
most important thing he did for the Naval Academy was to bring it back from a
deep malaise," Mr. McCain, Admiral Larson's Annapolis classmate and flight
school roommate, told The Sun in 2002.
retiring from the Navy, Admiral Larson worked in the private sector, serving on
boards of companies in the defense, aerospace, energy and construction
industries. He also served as vice chairman of the University System of Maryland
Board of Regents and chaired a blue-ribbon task force on reforms to university
governance and funding.
2002, Admiral Larson, who had no political experience, ran unsuccessfully for
lieutenant governor, switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat
to be Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's running mate. Ms. Townsend's selection of the
retired admiral was a secret until just hours before the announcement, and it
surprised the Democratic establishment.
Townsend said Saturday that she chose Admiral Larson because of his reputation
for integrity, his experience in the military and because, just a year after the
September 2001 terrorist attacks, public concern about homeland security ran
was a real leader," Ms. Townsend, who served two terms as lieutenant
governor, said of Admiral Larson. "He had the qualities of brilliance and
honesty — precisely the qualities you yearn for in a leader. He was just what
the Naval Academy needed."
memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Naval Academy Chapel.
Larson is survived by his wife of 52 years, Sally; and three daughters, Sigrid
Larson of Philadelphia, Erica Larson of Annapolis and Kirsten Datko of Arnold.