Frank Benton Kelso II
Admiral, US Navy (Retired)
Frank B. Kelso II, age 79, Chief of Naval Operations from July 1990 to May 1994 died on Sunday June 23rd.
Admiral Kelso’s career spanned the majority of the Cold War period. His tour as CNO covered the end of the Cold War and witnessed the largest reduction in the Navy since the end of World War II. The Navy staff was reorganized and reduced in size, combat positions were opened to women and the Navy embraced closer joint operations with the other services. The shore establishment was significantly reduced and bases closed to match the needs of a smaller Navy. He served as acting Secretary of the Navy for seven and one half months at the beginning of the Clinton Administration. His tour encompassed the highly successful US military operations in the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
Admiral Kelso served in various command positions including NATO’s Supreme Commander Atlantic, the unified US Atlantic Command, and Commander in Chief US Atlantic Fleet, Commander SIXTH Fleet in the Mediterranean, Submarine Squadron Seven and command of the submarines FINBACK and BLUEFISH. As COMSIXTHFLT Admiral Kelso directed operations against Libya in 1985 and 1986 that resulted in significant reductions in Libyan terrorists activities.
His decorations include the Defense, Navy, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medals, the Legion of Merit and numerous foreign awards.
Admiral Kelso was a native of Fayetteville, Tennessee where he attended public schools. He studied one year at the University of the South before his appointment to the US Naval Academy. Senator Albert Gore Sr. provided his appointment in 1952. He was the son of the late Benton and Wista Kelso of Fayetteville. After retirement he lived in the Washington DC area until his return home to Fayetteville in 2003. He was a member of the Fayetteville First United Methodist Church.
Admiral Kelso was married to Landess McCown Kelso for 56 years prior to her passing in July 2012. They had four children: Tom, who is an orthopedic surgeon in Southport, NC; Don a career naval officer who retired as a Captain and served in submarines, currently living in Chesapeake, VA; Mary who lives in Honolulu, HI and is married to Bill Kearns a retired Navy Captain and Kerry who lives in Richmond, VA and is married to Brian Thomas. Adm Kelso recently was remarried to Georgeanna Robinson of Fayetteville, TN.
Funeral services will be conducted Saturday at 10am at the Fayetteville First United Methodist Church. Burial will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery beside his wife Landess. Visitation with the family will be Friday evening 5-7 PM at Higgins Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers memorial may be made to the Fayetteville First United Methodist Church Building Fund, the ADM Frank B. Kelso II Scholarship Fund, c/o W. C. Askew, 114 Brookemeade Circle, Fayetteville, TN 37334 or the Rose Hill Cemetery Perpetual Trust Fund, P. O. Box 270 Fayetteville, TN 37334.