John Tower

John Tower
John Tower.jpg
Chair of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board
In office
July 17, 1990 – April 5, 1991
PresidentGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byAnne Armstrong
Succeeded byBobby Inman (acting)
Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee
In office
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1985
Preceded byJohn Stennis
Succeeded byBarry Goldwater
United States Senator
from Texas
In office
June 15, 1961 – January 3, 1985
Preceded byBill Blakley
Succeeded byPhil Gramm
Personal details
John Goodwin Tower

(1925-09-29)September 29, 1925
Houston, Texas, U.S.
DiedApril 5, 1991(1991-04-05) (aged 65)
Brunswick, Georgia, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic (before 1951)
Republican (1951–1991)
Spouse(s)Joza Bullington (1952–1976)
Lilla Cummings (1977–1987)
EducationSouthwestern University (BA)
Southern Methodist University (MA)
London School of Economics
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Years of service1943–1946
RankU.S. Navy E9 infobox.png Master chief petty officer
UnitU.S. Naval Reserve
Battles/warsWorld War II
 • Pacific Theater

John Goodwin Tower (September 29, 1925 – April 5, 1991) was an American politician, serving as a Republican United States Senator from Texas from 1961 to 1985. He was the first Republican Senator elected from Texas since Reconstruction. Tower also led the Tower Commission, which investigated the Iran-Contra Affair, and was an unsuccessful nominee for U.S. Secretary of Defense in 1989.

Born in Houston, Texas, he served in the Pacific Theater of World War II. After the war, he worked as a radio announcer and taught at Midwestern University. He switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in the early 1950s and worked on the 1956 presidential campaign of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Tower lost Texas's 1960 Senate election to Democratic Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, but performed relatively well compared to his Republican predecessors. With the Democratic victory in the 1960 presidential election, Johnson vacated his Senate seat to become Vice President of the United States. In the 1961 special election to fill the vacancy caused by Johnson's resignation, Tower narrowly defeated Democrat William A. Blakley. He won re-election in 1966, 1972, and 1978.

Upon joining the Senate, Tower became the only Republican Senator representing the South until Strom Thurmond switched parties in 1964. Tower staunchly opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Starting in 1976, Tower began to alienate many conservatives. He supported Gerald Ford rather than Ronald Reagan in the 1976 Republican primaries, supported legalized abortion, and opposed President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative.

Tower retired from the Senate in 1985. After leaving Congress, he served as chief negotiator of the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks with the Soviet Union and led the Tower Commission. The commission's report was highly critical of the Reagan administration's relations with Iran and the Contras. In 1989, incoming President George H. W. Bush chose Tower as his nominee for Secretary of Defense, but his nomination was rejected by the Senate. After the defeat, Tower chaired the President's Intelligence Advisory Board. Tower died in the 1991 Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 2311 crash.

Early life, education, and military service

Tower was born in Houston, Texas, the son of Joe Z. Tower (1898–1970) and Beryl Tower (1898–1990). Joe was a Methodist, later United Methodist, minister, and John traveled wherever his father was named by the denominational conference to pastor a church. He attended public schools in East Texas and graduated in Beaumont, the seat of Jefferson County, in southeast Texas in the spring of 1942.

Tower was active in politics as a child; at the age of thirteen, he passed out handbills for the campaign of liberal Democrat and future U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough while Yarborough was running unsuccessfully for state attorney general. Yarborough and Tower would later be paired as Texas's Senate delegation, though of opposing political perspectives. He entered Southwestern University in Georgetown (Williamson County near Austin) that same year and met future U.S. President and political opponent Lyndon Johnson on a campus visit while Johnson was the local congressman.

Tower left college in the summer of 1943 to serve in the Pacific Theater during World War II on an LCS(L) amphibious gunboat. He returned to Texas after the war in 1946, discharged as a seaman first class, and completed his undergraduate courses at Southwestern University, graduating in 1948 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. While at Southwestern, Tower was a member of the Iota chapter of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, and would later serve the organization in significant alumnus volunteer roles.[1] Tower worked as a radio announcer for a Country music station in Taylor, northeast of Austin, during college and for some time afterward. Tower remained in the Naval Reserve and achieved the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer, having retired from the military in 1989.[2]

In 1949, he moved to Dallas to take graduate courses at Southern Methodist University and to work part-time as an insurance agent. He left SMU in 1951 and entered academia as an assistant professor at Midwestern University (now Midwestern State University) in Wichita Falls. In 1952 and 1953, he pursued graduate coursework at the London School of Economics and conducted field research on the organization of the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom. His research was presented in his thesis, The Conservative Worker in Britain. He received his Master of Arts degree from SMU in 1953. While a professor at Midwestern University, Tower met Joza Lou Bullington, whom he married in 1952. A native of San Diego, California, Lou was reared in Wichita Falls and was the organist at the Towers' church. She was five years his senior. One of her older cousins, Orville Bullington, a Wichita Falls lawyer, was the unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1932 against former Governor Miriam Ferguson and a leader of the Robert A. Taft forces in Texas in 1952. Orville Bullington was also an uncle by marriage of the Midland Republican figure Frank Kell Cahoon, a Wichita Falls native who was the only Republican in the Texas House of Representatives in the 1965 legislative session. At that time, Cahoon and Tower were the only Republican legislators in the whole state of Texas.[3]