Admiral Charles R. Larson
Admiral Charles R. Larson

November 20, 1936 - July 26, 2014
Born in Sioux Falls, SD
Resided in Annapolis, MD
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Obituary

Adm. Charles R. Larson, a former superintendent of the Naval Academy and one-time candidate for lieutenant governor in Maryland, died Saturday morning at his home in Annapolis.

Cmdr. Wes Huey, Larson's son-in-law, confirmed Larson's death. He was 77. His death was due to pneumonia stemming from complications of his two-year battle with leukemia, Huey said.

Larson was a 1958 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and served twice as the superintendent of the academy, first from 1983 to 1986 and again from 1994 to 1998.

He became the second-youngest admiral in history at the age of 43, and in 1968 was the first naval officer to be selected as a White House fellow.

He served as a naval aide under President Richard Nixon, and worked with three other presidents during his career.

Having switched from aviation to submarines, he served on two ballistic missile submarines and three attack submarines. His most senior command position was as commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet.

Larson returned as the superintendent of the Naval Academy in the 1990s after a cheating scandal that involved more than 130 students.

He instituted a four-year character development program and gave upper class midshipmen more responsibility in the training of plebes.

Capt. Hank Sanford, who worked with Larson during his first stint as superintendent, became Larson's executive assistant when he returned to the academy as superintendent in the 1990s.

When he came back, he was more seasoned, but not arrogant, Sanford said.

"It didn't make any difference if you were the custodian or the commandant of the midshipmen, he treated everybody the same," Sanford said.

The two, who both lived in Annapolis, spent years together after Larson's retirement. Sanford said that though Larson started as a boss, he became a friend.

If Larson hadn't been willing to come back for his second stint as superintendent, Sanford said, "he could have gone off and made a lot of money and done a lot of different things as a retired four-star (admiral)."

When Larson was a member of the Class of 1958, future Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was a classmate and friend. They were later roommates for two years in five locations, while they attended flight school.

"Chuck was a 'squared away' brigade commander and class president who received his diploma and personal congratulations from graduation speaker President Dwight Eisenhower, while I graduated some distance behind," McCain said in a U.S. Naval Academy document about Larson's career.

Larson served on the foreign policy defense team of McCain's presidential campaign in 2000, according to The Capital's archives.

In 1998, Larson chaired a task force that reviewed higher education in Maryland.

A lifelong Republican, he switched to the Democratic Party shortly before he was picked by then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend as her running mate in her 2002 gubernatorial campaign.

Townsend and Larson lost in the November general election to Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and his running mate, Michael F. Steele.

Huey, his son-in-law, said that Larson "valued family highly, he valued duty highly, and he never veered from any of his values his whole life."

He was an honest, straightforward man, Huey said. And though he was a very powerful man, he was humble.

"The day before he passed, I had a moment with him and told him how proud I was of him and what a good man he was. He said, 'Well, I tried to be,'" he said.

Huey said he was struck by Larson's response. Given his long and distinguished career, he could have just thanked Huey.

"He basically said 'I did the best I could to be a good man, but it's for others to judge.' I admire that about him too," Huey said.

Larson is survived by his wife of 52 years, Sally; three daughters; and seven grandchildren.

Huey said that although Larson was buttoned-up in the public eye, his children and grandchildren brought out a more playful side of him. Having three daughters forced him to have a sense of humor, Huey said.

The current superintendent, Vice Adm. Walter E. "Ted" Carter Jr., said Larson's death is a great loss for the Naval Academy.

"He was a great man who served his nation with distinction, honor and dignity," Carter said in a statement.

Beyond the Naval Academy, Larson served on numerous corporate boards in areas of defense, aerospace, oil exploration and international service.

He sat on the board for the National Academy of Sciences Committee on International Security and Arms Control, the White House Fellows Foundation, the University System of Maryland, the Anne Arundel Health System, the Atlantic Council, the Council on Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation.

Huey said that when Larson was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012, he took it as just another challenge to overcome. He continued to pursue treatments until the very end, consulting medical experts and complying with protocols.

He was private about his illness, Sanford said. Although Sanford could tell Larson was ill, he waited until Larson told him on his own terms — which he did, eventually.

Larson was a great American, Huey said. "He was a real role model for not just me ... but his influence on sailors and officers in the fleet. He was just a remarkable naval officer."

The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Naval Academy Chapel. Larson will be buried in the Naval Academy cemetery.

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Services

Service
U.S. Naval Academy Chapel
Annapolis, MD US 21401
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
10:00 AM
Cemetery
U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery
Annapolis, MD US
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
11:00 AM

Charities

Naval Academy Foundation
247 King George Street
Annapolis, MD 21402