Edward Potter Foote – Colonel, United States Air Force

Courtesy of his classmastes, United States Military Academy

Edward Potter Foote
No. 13212  •  14 February 1922 – 20 February 1993
Died in Reno, Nevada, aged 71 years
Interment: Cremated, ashes scattered over the Pacific Ocean

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EDWARD POTTER FOOTE was born into a Navy family in Los Angeles, California, on 14 February 1922, the second son of Ovid Clemmons Foote and Elinor Potter Foote’s two children. His father, from North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, served a distinguished career as a Navy doctor and surgeon. His mother was from a prominent Chicago family. In addition to his father and older brother, he had several uncles on both sides of the family in the military service. When he was three months old, the family was transferred to the Pearl Harbor Base Hospital in Hawaii. Next, his father commanded the Naval Hospital in Washington, DC. His mother passed away when he was seven years old.
In Washington, where he did most of his growing up, he attended the Friends School and Western High School. While in high school he became an Eagle Scout and was a member of the Honor Society. He decided early on that he wanted to go to a service academy. In 1939, after a year at Millard’s Prep School in Washington, DC, he had a second alternate appointment to West Point. Both the principal and first alternate failed the entrance exam, and Edward Potter Foote became Cadet Foote, one of the youngest members of the Class of 1943. He was not alone at the Academy: his uncle, Major General J.L. Benedict, was Superintendent, and his cousin, Charles C. Benedict, was a classmate.

Shortly after his installation as a plebe in D Company, he acquired the nickname “Phoebe,” which became his primary call sign for the rest of his life. It seems an upperclassman was not receiving letters from his supposed girlfriend Phoebe. Hence, Cadet Foote was assigned, as part of his mail orderly duties, to prepare and regularly deliver amorous letters signed Phoebe. When it became known who the author Phoebe really was, the name stuck.

Phoebe Foote acquired a host of friends while a cadet. He was energetic with an outgoing personality, keen wit, and great sense of humor. As a cadet Phoebe had no problems academically. He played soccer and lacrosse, was big in the 100th Night Show and other extracurricular activities. He will be remembered by many of his contemporaries as the bandleader in the red long johns, high silk hat, and baton at the Goat/Engineer football game.

As a first classman, in June 1942 he was off to flight school with many of his classmates. In December 1942, his silver pilot wings were pinned on by his uncle, a Navy admiral filling in for his father who had died in 1940. Following an early graduation in January 1943, he was sent to Del Rio, Texas, for training in the Martin B-26 twin-engine bomber. Here it became apparent that he was a natural pilot. In the summer of 1943, he joined the newly formed 344th Bomb Group in Lakeland, Florida.

During this period he met and successfully courted Majorie (Jerry) Collins Matthews of Washington, DC. They were married on 20 November 1943 shortly before the bomb group flew to England. Phoebe showed his leadership by voluntarily taking on additional, undesirable duties. In the European Theater he flew 72 combat missions in all positions from wingman up to and including group lead. He progressed rapidly in grade from flight leader to squadron commander and wing staff officer after he had completed his missions. In late 1944, he was promoted to Major.

Shortly after V-E Day, his wife Jerry joined him overseas for an assignment at Erding Air Depot in southern Germany. There Sally Harris Foote was born on 16 January 1947. The family returned to the States in May 1947 when Phoebe was assigned to the Pentagon in AF Personnel. In Washington, their first son, Edward Potter Foote, Jr., was born on 24 June 1949.

That summer Phoebe was selected to attend the Harvard Business School majoring in financial management. He took Harvard in stride except for friendly complaints about his bagpipe playing in the apartment. On the plus side, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and awarded his MBA in 1951 before moving to Donaldson Air Force Base, Greenville, South Carolina, as comptroller of the 18th Air Force (Troop Carrier). In the spring of 1952, he was selected for assignment as executive officer to the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force in the Pentagon working on personnel and budgetary problems. This involved much duty on Capitol Hill.

After five years in the Washington area that included promotion in April 1953 to colonel from well below the zone, he was chosen to attend the Army War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, from which he graduated in May 1958. While at the AWC his outgoing personality and energetic and fun-loving nature again won him many friends. However, it was his inquisitive nature and sharp mind that showed in his incisive questioning of and debate with many noted speakers.

The family then moved to Hawaii where Phoebe had a staff job in PACAF Headquarters for the next two years. In June 1960 it was back to a command job as commander of the 51st Airborne at Naha, Okinawa. During these years he maintained his love for flying, checking out in jets and flying every available aircraft. In June 1962 it was again to Washington, DC, where the Footes had a lovely old home on 88 acres near Centerville, Virginia. Phoebe’s job was in the Headquarters AF as staff planner handling JCS buff papers. While in Washington their second son, Richard S. Foote, was born on 28 May 1963.

Next came a year in New York with the Council on Foreign Relations, Tri-lateral Division. This was followed by Swedish language training, then on to Stockholm, Sweden, as defense air attaché in June 1966. A perk of this assignment was control of a plush Convair 440 Embassy aircraft. For his distinguished service during his three-year tour, he was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Swedish Epee.

Upon returning to the States, he became comptroller of the Sacramento Air Materiel Area, McClelland Air Force Base, California. He was responsible for more than 1,000 people and extensive third-generation data processing equipment. Here his financial management skills were demonstrated to the fullest. His outstanding performance was recognized by the award of a second Legion of Merit when he retired in 1972.

During his entire career, two characteristics were paramount: his strong adherence to the West Point code of “Duty, Honor, Country” and his deep concern at all times for his troops.

After hanging up his blue suit and silver wings, he and Jerry retired fully to the beautiful home they had purchased earlier in Carmel Valley, California. Phoebe put his training and talents to work teaching financial management and other subjects in the local community college. He also served as a teacher on various U.S. Naval vessels in the Western Pacific. In addition to his teaching, he was active writing various monographs for the Defense Department through the Navy postgraduate school in nearby Monterey. In later years, his health began to fail. He died suddenly of a massive heart attack on 20 February 1993. We all remember his great sense of humor; his outgoing, generous, and fun-loving personality; his sharp intellect and concern for others. He took the greatest pride in his fine family: Jerry, Sally, Ted, and Richard. From his classmates and many friends we say, “Farewell and God Bless.”


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 02/14/1922
  • DATE OF DEATH: 02/20/1993

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