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W. Graham Claytor Jr.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

W. Graham Claytor Jr.
W. Graham Claytor 1984.jpg
President and CEO of Amtrak
In office
Preceded byAlan Stephenson Boyd
Succeeded byThomas Downs
United States Deputy Secretary of Defense
In office
August 21, 1979 – January 16, 1981
PresidentJimmy Carter
Preceded byCharles Duncan Jr.
Succeeded byFrank Carlucci
United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
February 14, 1977 – August 24, 1979
PresidentJimmy Carter
Preceded byJ. William Middendorf
Succeeded byEdward Hidalgo
Personal details
William Graham Claytor Jr.

(1912-03-14)March 14, 1912
Roanoke, Virginia, U.S.
DiedMay 14, 1994(1994-05-14) (aged 82)
Bradenton, Florida, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Frances Claytor
EducationUniversity of Virginia (BA)
Harvard University (LLB)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Years of service1941–1946
U.S. Navy O-4 insignia.svg
Lieutenant Commander
Battles/warsWorld War II

William Graham Claytor Jr. (March 14, 1912 – May 14, 1994) was an American lawyer, naval officer, and railroad, transportation and defense administrator for the United States government, working under the administrations of three US presidents.

He is remembered for his actions as the captain of the destroyer escort USS Cecil J. Doyle, during World War II which helped to save 317 lives during the USS Indianapolis tragedy. Over 30 years later, Claytor's moderate actions on behalf of the rights of female and gay service personnel as Secretary of the Navy were considered progressive for the time. He is also credited with a distinguished transportation career, including ten years as president of the Southern Railway and 11 years as the head of Amtrak, guiding the passenger railroad through a particularly difficult period in its history. He was named the Virginian of the Year in 1977.[1]

Early life and career

Claytor was born in Roanoke, Virginia on March 14, 1912, and grew up in both Virginia and Philadelphia. He was the son of Gertrude Harris Boatwright Claytor, a lyric poet, and W. Graham Claytor (1886–1971), who was vice-president of Appalachian Power.

Claytor graduated from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1933. He then graduated from Harvard Law School summa cum laude in 1936. He then clerked for Learned Hand, Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He then moved to Washington, D.C., to become law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Louis Brandeis before joining the prestigious Washington law firm Covington and Burling.


World War II — USS Indianapolis tragedy

In 1940, soon after the start of World War II, 28-year-old Claytor attempted to enlist, but was initially rejected by the United States Navy as being too old.[citation needed] He finally joined under a special provision, based upon his previous experience in sports boating. He was assigned to the Pacific Theater.

Late in the war, Claytor became commanding officer of the destroyer escort USS Cecil J. Doyle on patrol in the Pacific Ocean.[2] In August 1945, Claytor sped without orders[citation needed] to investigate reports of men floating in the water. As Cecil J. Doyle approached the area at night, Claytor turned the ship's searchlights on the water and straight up on low clouds, lighting up the night, despite the risk of exposing his ship to possible attack by Japanese submarines.[2] These actions facilitated the rescue of the survivors of the sunken cruiser USS Indianapolis.[2]

Indianapolis had been on a secret mission, and due to a communications error, had not been reported as overdue (or missing). An estimated 900 men survived the sinking, but spent days floating in life jackets trying to fight off sharks. While only 317 were rescued out of a crew of 1199 who were aboard Indianapolis, Claytor's actions were widely credited by survivors with preventing an even greater loss of life.[citation needed]

Legal practice and Southern Railway

After World War II, he resumed practice of law in Washington, D.C. He became an officer of the Southern Railway in 1963, serving as president from 1967–1977. Notwithstanding his legal background, Claytor was known as an "operations" man, often riding the company's trains, monitoring and questioning performance.[citation needed] In contrast to his predecessor, D. William Brosnan, Claytor was an "employee's President," often chatting with the crews of the trains on which he rode, actively soliciting their suggestions on how to make the railroad run better. He carried this attitude with him during his later service as the President of Amtrak.

U.S. Government service

Claytor served as the Secretary of the Navy under President Jimmy Carter from 1977[3] to 1979.[citation needed] He is credited with leading the United States Navy into its first recognition of women's right to serve on ships and of rights of gays to leave the service without criminal records.[citation needed] His positions were considered by activists to be progressive for the time, leading to further progress years later in these controversial issues.

In 1979, he was appointed to the position of Deputy Secretary of Defense.[citation needed] While serving as Deputy Defense Secretary, Claytor's military assistant was General Colin Powell.[citation needed]

In the summer of 1979, he took a brief leave from the Defense Department to serve as Acting Secretary of Transportation in Carter's Cabinet. His service at the Transportation Department bridged the tenures of Secretary Brock Adams and Secretary Neil Goldschmidt.


In 1982, Claytor came out of retirement to lead Amtrak. He was recruited and strongly supported by John H. Riley, an attorney who was also the head of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) under the Reagan Administration from 1983 to 1989.

Claytor maintained a good relationship with the U.S. Congress during his 11 years in the position. Within 7 years of being under Claytor's leadership, Amtrak was generating enough money to cover 72 percent of its $1.7 billion operating budget by 1989, up from 48 percent in 1981.[4] This was achieved mainly through vigorous cost cutting and aggressive marketing. He is credited with bringing political and operational stability to the nation's passenger train network, keeping the railroad functioning properly despite repeated attempts by the administrations of Reagan and his successor George H.W. Bush to eliminate its funding.

Claytor retired from Amtrak in 1993.

Legacy and heritage

Claytor was named the Virginian of the Year in 1977.[1] In 1989, he was named Railroader of the Year by Railway Age magazine.[5]

He was the brother of Robert B. Claytor, who became president of Norfolk and Western Railway in 1981 and was the first chairman and CEO of Norfolk Southern after it was formed by merger with the Southern Railway System in 1982.[citation needed] Robert B. Claytor is best remembered by many railfans for reactivating Norfolk and Western Railway's steam program, which rebuilt steam locomotives J-611 and A-1218 at the Roanoke Shops at Roanoke, Virginia, and operated excursion trips. Claytor Jr. would occasionally take the throttle as engineer with his brother on the steam excursions.[citation needed]

Claytor died on May 14, 1994.[6]

At Amtrak's Washington, DC Union Station a passenger concourse was renamed "Claytor Concourse" in his honor.[6]

"The Claytor Brothers: Virginians Building America's Railroad" is a semi-permanent exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b "VPA's Virginian of the Year". Virginia Press Association. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
  2. ^ a b c Marks (April 1981), pp. 48–50.
  3. ^ Shutt, Anne (1982-06-11). "In Short…". Christian Science Monitor. Boston, Massachusetts: First Church of Christ, Scientist. Retrieved 2008-06-12.
  4. ^ Alpert, Mark (1989-10-23). "Still Chugging". Fortune. Retrieved 2011-05-30.
  5. ^ "Hunter Harrison presented Railroader of the Year Award – Rail Update – executive vice president and chief operating officer of Canadian National/Illinois Central – Brief Article". Railway Age. April 2002. Retrieved 2007-01-13.
  6. ^ a b Lyons, Richard D. (1994-05-15). "W. Graham Claytor, Architect Of Amtrak Growth, Dies at 82". New York Times. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  7. ^ "The Claytor Brothers—Virginians Building America's Railroad". Exhibits. Virginia Museum of Transportation. Retrieved September 5, 2018.

External links

Business positions
Preceded by
D. William Brosnan
President of Southern Railway
Succeeded by
L. Stanley Crane[1][2]
Preceded by
Alan Stephenson Boyd
President of Amtrak
Succeeded by
Thomas Downs
Government offices
Preceded by
J. William Middendorf
United States Secretary of the Navy
February 14, 1977 – August 24, 1979
Succeeded by
Edward Hidalgo
Political offices
Preceded by
Charles Duncan Jr.
United States Deputy Secretary of Defense
Succeeded by
Frank Carlucci
Preceded by
Darius W. Gaskins Jr. (BN)
Modern Railways magazine's
Man of the Year

Succeeded by
Arnold B. McKinnon (NS)
  1. ^ L. Stanley Crane, elected in 1978 as a member of the United States National Academy of Engineering
  2. ^ L. Stanley Crane (born in Cincinnati, 1915) raised in Washington, lived in McLean before moving to Philadelphia in 1981. He began his career with Southern Railway after graduating from The George Washington University with a chemical engineering degree in 1938. He worked for the railroad, except for a stint from 1959 to 1961 with the Pennsylvania Railroad, until reaching the company's mandatory retirement age in 1980. Crane went to Conrail in 1981 after a distinguished career that had seen him rise to the position of CEO at the Southern Railway. He died of pneumonia on July 15, 2003 at a hospice in Boynton Beach, Fla.
This page was last edited on 11 September 2020, at 04:37
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