William Robert Anderson – Captain, United States Navy Member of Congress

ANDERSON, William Robert, a Representative from Tennessee; born in Bakerville, Humphreys County, Tennessee, June 17, 1921; attended the public schools in Waynesboro, Tennessee; graduated from Columbia Military Academy, Columbia, Tennessee, 1939; graduated from the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, 1942; United States Navy, 1957-1962; participated in eleven submarine combat patrols in the Pacific; awarded the Bronze Star and other combat awards; commanding officer of the Nautilus, the first atomic submarine, 1957-1959; made the first transpolar voyage under ice; served as assistant to Vice Admiral H. G. Rickover; consultant to President Kennedy for the National Service Corps, 1963; author; elected as a Democrat to the Eighty-ninth and to the three succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1965-January 3, 1973); unsuccessful candidate for reelection to the Ninety-third Congress in 1972; business executive, Public Office Corporation, Washington, D.C.; was a resident of Alexandria, Virginia.

Saturday, 03/03/07
Anderson, North Pole pioneer, dies at 85
Ex-congressman led nuclear submarine

Courtesy of The Tennessean

Shortly before his death a week ago, former Tennessee Congressman and retired U.S. Navy Captain. William R. Anderson still received fan mail about something he did in 1958.

Accompanied by 115 crew members, Captain Anderson led the first voyage from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean by passing the North Pole under ice aboard Nautilus, the first atomic submarine.

Captain Anderson, 85, who wrote about the journey in a couple of books, died February 25, 2007, of kidney failure at a hospital in Virginia, his wife, Pat Anderson, said. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. March 16, 2007, at the Old Fort Myer chapel adjacent to the Arlington National Cemetery, where he will be buried.


“He loved Tennessee, and he loved the Navy,” said Pat Anderson, who married Captain Anderson in 1980 and lives in Virginia.

“His real strength was in giving other people the credit,” she said. “He treated everyone with great respect. … He was just totally unpretentious. He truly was shy. He hated cocktail parties and dreaded reunions. He was not a show guy.”

Born in Bakerville, Tennessee, on June 17, 1921, Captain Anderson graduated from Columbia Military Academy in Columbia, Tennessee, and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1942. He quickly advanced, becoming a Captain at 39.

He participated in 11 submarine combat patrol missions missions and was honored with the Bronze Star as well as other awards.

In 1964, Captain Anderson was elected to the U.S. Congress and represented Tennessee’s 6th District as a Democrat for four terms. At that time, the 6th District included 16 counties, including Trousdale, Sumner, Robertson, Cheatham, Montgomery, Dickson, Williamson, Maury and Rutherford.

“The people in this district are people with confidence in Tennessee and the nation to move forward to meet the challenges of this complicated era,” Captain Anderson was quoted as saying in November 1964 after winning the congressional seat.

He was defeated in 1972 after he spoke out against the Vietnam war and publicly challenged then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover about the treatment of anti-war activists and brothers Daniel and Philip Berrigan.

Captain Anderson also served as consultant to Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson on the National Service Corps. After his retirement from the Navy, Captain Anderson and his wife, Pat, founded Public Office Corporation, a data management firm.

In addition to his wife, Captain Anderson is survived by four children: Michael Anderson of Haymarket, Virginia, William Anderson Jr., of Orange County, Virginia, Jane Hensley Anderson and Thomas McKelvey Anderson, both of Leesburg, Virginia; a sister, Josephine Garner of Franklin, Tennessee, and a granddaughter.

William R. Anderson; Sailed First Nuclear Sub Beneath North Pole
By Martin Weil
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Monday, March 5, 2007

William R. Anderson, 85, who as a Naval officer captured the imagination of the world by sailing the Nautilus, the first nuclear submarine, beneath the North Pole and then served four terms in Congress, died of kidney failure February 25, 2007, in Leesburg, Virginia, where he resided.

As a Democratic congressman from Tennessee during the Vietnam War, Captain Anderson steered a course that many had not expected. This included visiting two noted antiwar protesters in prison and rising to their defense on the House floor.

The voyage of the Nautilus under the polar ice cap August 3, 1958, seemed at the time to be a realization of the dreams of early science fiction.

At a time when the world was beginning to set its sights toward space, the undersea feat gave Captain Anderson and his 115 crew members prominence in the long line of those who had achieved renown by venturing into the unexplored places of Earth.

Capt. Anderson wrote about the trip in books and in the Saturday Evening Post. An account of the pioneering voyage appeared September 1, 1958, in Life magazine, and the magazine’s cover featured a photograph of Captain Anderson.

Yet he was a shy man, and if there was something he did not like about his achievement, his wife, Pat Anderson, said last night, it was “all the hoopla.” When he was showered with praise, she said, “he would always give credit to his men.” He was very modest, she said.

“He was the kind of guy you would follow anywhere,” Al Charette, a Nautilus crew member, said on a Web site devoted to the submarine.

A U.S. Naval Academy graduate and a decorated World War II submarine combat veteran, Captain Anderson was elected to Congress in 1964 in a district west of Nashville.

By 1970, he was becoming politically prominent, in part because of his expression of doubt about the conduct of the Vietnam War. His wife said he perceived a lack of full national commitment to victory. “He hated to see us over there without an intense intent to win,” she said.

Well before the Watergate break-in, he became critical of the Nixon administration.

“The war is only one issue,” he told The Washington Post. “This administration appears too willing to throw the Bill of Rights out the window.”

A Post article said that on a trip to Vietnam during the war he discovered harsh conditions — the notorious “tiger cages” in which some enemy prisoners were confined.

After the trip, he became acquainted with antiwar Catholic priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan, who were imprisoned for destroying draft files. Before they were indicted, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover accused them in Senate testimony of being ringleaders in an antiwar kidnap plot.

“Bill really got hot under the collar,” his wife said.

He was reelected with 82 percent of the vote in November 1970, but after he took the House floor in December 1970 to defend the Berrigans and accuse Hoover of “McCarthyism,” he said at the time, his popularity in his district declined.

Despite obstacles, including redistricting, he was defeated narrowly in the 1972 congressional campaign, his wife said.

Captain Anderson was born in Bakerville, Tennessee, on June 17, 1921, and graduated in 1939 from the Columbia Military Academy in Columbia, Tenn., and from the Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1942. In the Navy, Captain Anderson had been an assistant to Vice Admiarl Hyman G. Rickover, who led the development of nuclear power for the Navy.

Nuclear propulsion allowed submarines to remain underwater almost constantly, without the need to refuel diesel engines or recharge electrical batteries.

In 1957, Captain Anderson took command of the Nautilus, which shared the name of the submarine in the celebrated Jules Verne novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” Soon Captain Anderson was probing under Arctic sea ice.

His wife said last night that the trip under the North Pole stemmed at least in part from a chance encounter in Washington with an acquaintance who was an aide to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. After meeting the aide on the steps of the Pentagon, Captain Anderson was invited the next day to the White House, Pat Anderson said. The Soviets had launched a space satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. Eisenhower had been looking “for something spectacular,” she said, and Captain Anderson “knew when he had an opportunity.”

In its journey beneath the North Pole, the Nautilus submerged in the Pacific Ocean, spent four days under the Arctic ice and surfaced in the North Atlantic.

Eisenhower awarded Captain Anderson the Legion of Merit for “foresighted planning, skilled seamanship and thorough study of the Arctic area.”

Captain Anderson’s marriage to Yvonne Etzel ended in divorce.

According to the (Nashville) Tennessean, in addition to his wife, survivors include four children, Michael Anderson of Haymarket, William Anderson Jr. of Orange County, Vairginia, and Jane Anderson and Thomas Anderson of Leesburg.

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