John Warner Biography

(Former United States Secretary of the Navy)

Birthday: February 18, 1927 (Aquarius)

Born In: Washington, D.C., United States

American lawyer and politician John Warner served as the US Secretary of the Navy, from 1972 to 1974, and was a 5-time Republican US Senator from Virginia, from 1979 to 2009. Warner also chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee from 1999 to 2001 and from 2003 to 2007. He also served as the Chair of the Senate Rules Committee from 1995 to 1999. A military veteran who had served in World War II and the Korean War, he was respected for his expertise in military and national security issues. After quitting the Senate and politics, Warner worked as a lawyer for Hogan Lovells. He was married thrice. While his marriage to his first wife, banking heiress Catherine Conover Mellon, helped him gain initial political mileage, his second wife, iconic Hollywood star Elizabeth Taylor, accompanied him on his first Senate campaign and ensured he soared to fame before his Senate win in 1978.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: John William Warner III

Died At Age: 94


Spouse/Ex-: Jeanne Vander (m. 2003), Catherine Mellon (m. 1957–1973), Elizabeth Taylor (m. 1976–1982)

father: Dr. John Warner Jr.

mother: Martha Budd

children: John Warner Jr, Mary Warner, Virginia Warner

Born Country: United States

Political Leaders American Men

Died on: May 25, 2021

place of death: Alexandria, Virginia, United States

Cause of Death: Heart Failure

U.S. State: Washington

More Facts

education: University Of Virginia, George Washington University, Washington And Lee University

awards: Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire

Early Life, Education, & Military Career

John William Warner III, better known as John Warner, was born in Washington, D.C., on February 18, 1927, to obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. John Warner Jr. and Martha Budd. He initially attended the St. Albans School, before joining the Woodrow Wilson High School, from where he graduated in February 1945.

In January 1945, at 17, Warner joined the United States Navy, during World War II. He quit as a 3rd class electronics technician in 1946. He later joined the Washington and Lee University and became a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity there, graduating with an engineering degree in 1949.

Following this, he joined the University of Virginia Law School. In October 1950, even before completing his degree, he volunteered for the US Marines and was posted in Korea during the Korean War.

While he initially worked as a 1st Marine Aircraft Wing first lieutenant and communications officer, he later remained with the Marine Corps Reserves and was eventually promoted to captain. He then went back to studies, joined the George Washington University, and later obtained his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1953.

The same year, he started working for US Court of Appeals Chief Judge E. Barrett Prettyman, as his law clerk. In 1956, he started working as an assistant prosecutor for the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.

In 1960, he began his private law practice and joined the law firm Hogan & Hartson (which is now Hogan Lovells). He also worked for Vice President Richard Nixon's campaign team in the 1960 United States presidential election.

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Political Career

John Warner worked for the US Department of the Navy for 5 years (during the Vietnam War), first as the US Under Secretary of the Navy, from 1969 to 1972, and later as the 61st United States Secretary of the Navy, from 1972 to 1974. During his first run for the Senate as a Republican in 1978, his second wife, Hollywood megastar Elizabeth Taylor campaigned with him.

His fame as Taylor’s husband helped him win the seat narrowly. He took over as the US Senator from Virginia in January 1979.

He was later re-elected to a second term by 70% of the total votes, defeating Democratic rival Edythe Harrison. He served 5 terms before retiring in January 2009.

He was succeeded by his long-time rival, Democrat Mark Warner. John Warner was the second-longest serving senator in the history of Virginia.

During his tenure, he would often support the GOP presidents but also often went against his own party’s views. He opposed Robert Bork’s 1987 nomination to the US Supreme Court and went against Republican nominee Oliver North’s 1994 candidacy for US Senate against rival Democrat Charles S. Robb.

The GOP conservatives were angered and attempted to stop Warner from winning his fourth term in 1996, by supporting former budget director Jim Miller in the primary. Warner was portrayed as an elitist who spent too much time around celebrities, such as Barbara Walters.

However, Warner defeated Miller in the primary and then Mark Warner in the general election. John Warner mended his ties with GOP by helping Jim Gilmore become governor in 1997 and George Allen take over Charles Robb’s Senate seat in 2000. From 1995 to 1999, he served as the Senate Rules Committee chairman.

In 2005, Warner was the only senator to object to the Schiavo bill, related to the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case, in a voice vote.  Terri had suffered brain damage, and her husband wished to remove her feeding tube, leading to a long legal battle against her parents.

Warner’s military expertise made him one of the most respected voices on military and national security concerns in the US. He also chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee from January 1999 to June 2001 and again during the initial stages of the Iraq War, from January 2003 to January 2007.

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While he initially supported the US-led war and even voted in favor of the 2002 joint resolution that authorized the use of military force against Iraq, he started criticizing the war later. In 2006, after a visit to Baghdad, Warner appealed for a “change in course.”

He went against then-President George W. Bush’s decision to increase the number of troops in Iraq in 2007 and launched a bipartisan resolution against the President’s plan. He also called upon top Pentagon officials to hearings on the torture of prisoners at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison. He suggested Bush withdraw troops from Iraq.

After his retirement, Warner often endorsed Democrats. He supported long-time rival Mark Warner in 2014, going against Republican candidate Ed Gillespie and also supported his re-election campaign in 2020. Warner also supported Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President in 2016, against GOP candidate Donald Trump. He later supported Joe Biden’s campaign, too.

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Personal Life

In August 1957, Warner married Catherine Conover Mellon, the daughter of philanthropist and art collector Paul Mellon and the granddaughter of banking tycoon and politician Andrew Mellon. His marriage gave him access to a lot of political and influential contacts.

The couple had three children, daughters Virginia and Mary and son John IV, before they divorced in 1973. Reportedly, Warner received around $7 million from Catherine after their divorce.

He married legendary film actor Elizabeth Taylor in December 1976, at the Second Presbyterian Church of Richmond, Virginia. He was the sixth of Taylor’s seven husbands. He had apparently met her while chairing the nation’s bicentennial celebration in 1976, while a week later, she had expressed her interest to visit his farm and ride a horse.

His marriage to Taylor catapulted him to instant fame shortly before he was elected to the US Senate in 1978. The couple divorced in November 1982.

In the 1990s, Warner was romantically linked to broadcast journalist Barbara Walters. In December 2003, Warner married his third wife, real-estate agent Jeanne Vander Myde.

Jeanne was the widow of Paul Vander Myde, who had served as a defense department official in the Reagan administration.

Death & Legacy

On May 25, 2021, John Warner died of heart failure at his residence in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife, Jeanne, his daughter, and his former chief of staff, Susan A. Magill, by his side. He was 94 at the time of his death.

His funeral was held at Washington National Cathedral, on June 23, 2021. President Joe Biden was among those who attended and spoke at the funeral. In 2015, the Navy named the Virginia-class attack submarine USS John Warner after him.

See the events in life of John Warner in Chronological Order

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