Admiral Frank Benton Kelso, II
July 11, 1933 -
June 23, 2013

Visitation

June 28, 2013
5-7 PM

Service 

June 29, 2013
10 AM

Interment

Obituary

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.

Video Services

31 Comments

  1. Dwight E Lowdermilk

    Fayetteville and Lincoln County Tennessee are honoring Admiral Kelso with Admiral Frank Kelso Day on July 11 2018 (his 85th birthday) and featuring him on the inaugural Fayetteville Lincoln County Tennessee Home Town Heroes celebration on July 14 2018.

    Reply
  2. Ronnie Rawls

    I never had the pleasure of meeting Admiral Kelso; I was just another government civil servant who worked for the Department of the Navy during the ’80s and ’90s. He did, however, make a lasting impression on the way I think and the way I live. He introduced the Navy to Total Quality Leadership, based on the Deming Philosophy. For me and many others, it didn’t just become another passing fad. It grew roots and profoundly impacted the way we did business and the way we treated others, even outside the workplace. I have always been grateful for that influence, and I will continue to remember Admiral Kelso with respect and affection for making that decision which turned out to mean so very much to so many of us.

    Reply
  3. Melvin B Schweiger

    Frank was a great Naval Officer and a friend. I had the privilege of serving under him as a reservist when he had OP-21. He saw to it that I had real responsibilities and I returned the following year for another tour. I always looked forward to seeing him at our class reunions and hearing his views on the state of our Navy

    Reply
  4. RADM and Mrs William W. Cobb, Jr. USN(ret)

    Adm Frank Kelso was the finest of Naval Officers and gentleman. We shared a lifelong love of golf, having played in different eras for the same coach at the Naval Academy. He was a mentor , a close friend and a man of the highest character.I always treasured the career advice he gave me and the friendship that he showed to my family in good times and bad. His grown children inherited all the positive traits of Farnk Kelso and it has been an honor for Karen and I to know them. Men like Frank Kelso come along only a few times in a generation—we will not see his like again soon. We know that this outstanding Naval Officer is in God’s hands. With love and admiration, Bill and Karen Cobb

    Reply
  5. Capt & Mrs (Greg and Betty) Meyer, USN (Ret)

    We were shipmates on USS Bluefish when I was a young Ensign. He set the standard for all Commanding Officers. He and Landess were two of the finest people we had the privilege to know in 24 years in the Submarine Service.

    Betty and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Kelso family.

    Reply
  6. Captain Jesse J. Kelso, USN Ret

    The words most often associated with Admiral Kelso by those who knew him are integrity and humility, qualities which are rare indeed among people who achieve high positions in the armed forces and in government. I have had many people approach me who served with him over the years to ask if we were related. When I explained that we only had a common ancestor several hundred years ago, they would invariably go out of their way to explain not only how much they admired him, but also the personal impact he had on their lives Many of these people were enlisted as well as fellow officers and from all walks of life. I am grateful that I finally had the opportunity to serve under his leadership when he became Chief of Naval Operations. He will always be my role model and I am proud to be able to say that he is my hometown hero.

    I sincerely regret that I was unable to attend his funeral and I wish to express my condolences to his widow and his family. I know that he will be missed not only by you and the community in Fayetteville, but also by the larger Navy community both active and retired where his memory will live on.

    J.J. Kelso, Captain USN Ret.

    Reply
  7. W Harold Bigham

    I was a sophomore at Sewanee when Frank joined us there for one year. During that time I came to know him well, in part because we were both Lincoln County natives, he from Fayetteville and I from the Petersburg area. Our paths diverged when he left for the Naval Academy and a distinguished naval career, while I pursued law school teaching,

    His family can take pride in a life well lived and I grieve the death of yet another friend of my youth.

    Prof. Harold Bigham
    Pepperdine University School of Law

    Reply
  8. Chaplain Ray Fritz

    On behalf of the United States Submarine Veterans, our condolences to all of ADM Kelso’s family and friends. You are in our thoughts and prayers that God will whisper peace to your hearts and comfort you in your sorrow and loss. We are grateful for your courageous, dedicated and long service to the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Submarine Force, God and country. As our “Brother of the Phin” we say, “Sailor, rest your oar. May you rest in peace and may God bless your loved ones. Thank you for your service to God and country. God bless you with fair winds and calm seas.” — Rev. Ray Fritz, National Chaplain United States Submarine Veterans, USSVI.

    Reply
  9. Tippy Ingram

    To Georgia and The Admiral’s Family,

    You have my sympathy! May God Bless and Sustain you in this great loss.

    Reply
  10. RADM Winford G.(Jerry) Ellis USN(ret) and Rosemary

    A Giant of a Leader, a wonderful American, and a true Friend to all of us. He will be missed terribly. Our Nation was fortunate to have him lead our Navy.God bless him and his family
    Very Sincerely – Jerry and Rosemary .

    Reply
  11. john and anne underwood and family

    We are proud to say Adm Kelso was from Fayetteville. He always called you by your namel.

    Reply
  12. Howard Marshall

    My condolences to Admiral Kelso’s family. I have had the opportunity to work around Admiral Kelso from his tour as the SIXTHFLT Commander through his tour as Chief of Naval Operations. He was a great man who truly cared about Sailors during a very difficult time for our Navy. Fayetteville and Tennessee should be very proud of their very distinguished, patriotic son. LCDR Howard Marshall, USN (Ret)

    Reply
  13. J. Don Clark

    Frank and I played together as small children, and I cannot remember when we were not friends. He was an outstanding person. His wife, Landess, was one of my distant cousins. I will always remember him with great fondness. RIP, my friend.

    Reply
  14. Anita Noel

    Nice man and treated everyone with respect

    Reply
  15. Commander Lance R. Alderman, USNR (Ret)

    I am sorry to hear about Admiral Kelso’s passing and wish to express my condolences to his family. I worked for him when he was a Captain at the Navy Military Personnel Command (Bureau of Naval Personnel) and admired how he was a mentor and a genuine people person. The Navy and America need more men like Frank Kelso. It was an honor and privilege to have served under him.

    Reply
  16. Colonel USAF (Ret.) and Mrs. David L. Debus

    Frank and I were classmates at the Naval Academy and members of the 24th Company between 1952 and 1956. It was clear from the very beginning that he was destined for great things. He was a gentleman in every respect and a fine leader. He will be sorely missed by all that knew him.

    Our sympathies go to the Kelso family and all their friends. We have lost one of the very best.

    David Debus

    Reply
  17. Capt. & Mrs. (Jim and Mary Ann) Burritt, USN, Ret.

    I served with Admiral Kelso on USS Bluefish (SSN-675) for a period that included the 1973 mideast war in the Mediteranean. He was an excellent Skipper, and an officer with whom I would go to war.

    A perfect gentleman. It was an honor to serve with him.

    Reply
  18. Captain & Mrs (John & Mila) Bauman, USN (Ret)

    I feel privileged to have spent four years at the U. S. Naval Academy with Admiral Frank. We were Class of 1956 Midshipmen assigned to the 24th Company. Mila and I met with the Admiral several times during his career. He always made time to share close relations with us.

    An outstanding officer, perfect gentleman, classmate and friend! We shall all miss him. Our deepest sympathy to his family. May the grace and peace of God be with Admiral Kelso and his loving family.

    Reply
  19. VADM (Ret) Omar Eduardo Andujar-Zaiter, DRN

    Very distinguished ADM. Kelso’s Fa.:

    On behalf of my family and myself I would like to express my sympathy on the passing of Admiral Frank B. Kelso II, a great sailor and friend.

    God bless all of you; to ADM. Kelso RIP

    Reply
  20. Captain James J Harnes, Jr., USN (Ret)

    Admiral Kelso, or “The Boss”, as he was called by members of the SIXTHFLT Staff, was without doubt the most professional, caring and understanding senior leader with whom I was privileged to serve.

    We all have lost a great friend and mentor.

    Reply
  21. Judy and Bill Houley

    Frank and Landess always had time and love for their friends. There were never too many or too unimportant. Laughs and smiles were unlimited in supply and advice was offered when asked. They were both sources of inspiration and maintained their “down home” personalities even when Frank was a national/naval leader. Both will be long remembered and their impact on so many will be long lasting. God bless them both and also bless those who miss them most.

    Reply
  22. John Frankenburg, HMCM (SW) USN (Ret)

    I was privileged to serve under ADM Kelso when he was the Commander of Atlantic Fleet in the mid 80’s. The ADM was one of the finest Naval Officers I had the privilege to serve with.
    You served your county, the Navy and your family well. Rest in Peace Shipmate.

    My condolences to the Kelso family.

    Reply
  23. Roy A. Moyers, Jr. (buddy)

    We were not close friends but knew him anyway. I remember he was a good student in school. My prayers are with the family and friends at this time. Frank will be missed by many. Roy

    Reply
  24. Alan Syler

    We have lost a great man and shipmate.
    Sailor Rest Your Oar

    Reply
  25. MMCM(SS) Robert P. McCoy USN RET

    Admiral Kelso is without a doubt one of the most outstanding Naval Officers to ever hold the Rank and title of a Naval Officer. I have always appreciated the way he and Landess took care of the family members when we were deployed while I served as Chief of the Boat aboard the USS Los Angeles SSN 688. I enjoyed playing cards with him and having the pleasure of visiting him when he was at the Pentagon.
    My condolences to the family, you and I have lost a great individual.

    Reply
  26. Jan Duncan Frazier

    I have admired Frank Kelso since he was CNO and I was a “nobody” civilian on the CNET staff at NAS Pensacola. When I came to Fayetteville & found out he was a native son, I was in awe. When he reitred here, we became friends. What a brilliant man & devout man of God. I have also loved both his wives–Landess and Georgia. My heart goes out to Georgia and Frank’s family. The world grieves with you.

    Reply
  27. Jim Black

    It was an honor to know Adm. Kelso who not only served his country admirably, but also a man who loved his friends, his community and his God. A more humble man, I have never known. God bless your family during this time.
    Jim Black
    minister, Washington Street Church of Christ

    Reply
  28. Tom Benson

    I was always proud to say that Frank was a classmate. We have lost a great American.

    Reply
  29. Peggy G. Bevels

    To All The Kelso Family,
    Admiral Kelso was my friend and I will miss him terribly. He was always encouraging me in my job as mayor.

    He sent me many packages and boxes of his items that I kept until I was able to put them in the museum. He knew I was trying to have a museum here. We have an entire exhibit dedicated to this wonderful man.

    May your precious memories help carry you through this difficult time.

    In Christian Love,
    Peggy G. Bevels

    Reply
  30. James O. Moore

    Frank was a classmate, close friend, and fellow military veteran. I remember him especially in Central High School, but after his retirement, at other time. He was a true military man, so well respected. He will be missed. My prayers are with the family. As side note, Landess and I were distant cousins.

    Jim Moore

    Reply
  31. George W Baker

    Words cannot express the love and admiration I have for The Skipper and Landess. This man knew how to handle men as well as his Submarines. I have never served under a better man in all my Naval Career. When we lost Landess I had a feeling Frank had was ready to go too as all Great Loves do. God Bless and keep the two of you side by side again.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Memories

31 Comments

  1. Dwight E Lowdermilk

    Fayetteville and Lincoln County Tennessee are honoring Admiral Kelso with Admiral Frank Kelso Day on July 11 2018 (his 85th birthday) and featuring him on the inaugural Fayetteville Lincoln County Tennessee Home Town Heroes celebration on July 14 2018.

    Reply
  2. Ronnie Rawls

    I never had the pleasure of meeting Admiral Kelso; I was just another government civil servant who worked for the Department of the Navy during the ’80s and ’90s. He did, however, make a lasting impression on the way I think and the way I live. He introduced the Navy to Total Quality Leadership, based on the Deming Philosophy. For me and many others, it didn’t just become another passing fad. It grew roots and profoundly impacted the way we did business and the way we treated others, even outside the workplace. I have always been grateful for that influence, and I will continue to remember Admiral Kelso with respect and affection for making that decision which turned out to mean so very much to so many of us.

    Reply
  3. Melvin B Schweiger

    Frank was a great Naval Officer and a friend. I had the privilege of serving under him as a reservist when he had OP-21. He saw to it that I had real responsibilities and I returned the following year for another tour. I always looked forward to seeing him at our class reunions and hearing his views on the state of our Navy

    Reply
  4. RADM and Mrs William W. Cobb, Jr. USN(ret)

    Adm Frank Kelso was the finest of Naval Officers and gentleman. We shared a lifelong love of golf, having played in different eras for the same coach at the Naval Academy. He was a mentor , a close friend and a man of the highest character.I always treasured the career advice he gave me and the friendship that he showed to my family in good times and bad. His grown children inherited all the positive traits of Farnk Kelso and it has been an honor for Karen and I to know them. Men like Frank Kelso come along only a few times in a generation—we will not see his like again soon. We know that this outstanding Naval Officer is in God’s hands. With love and admiration, Bill and Karen Cobb

    Reply
  5. Capt & Mrs (Greg and Betty) Meyer, USN (Ret)

    We were shipmates on USS Bluefish when I was a young Ensign. He set the standard for all Commanding Officers. He and Landess were two of the finest people we had the privilege to know in 24 years in the Submarine Service.

    Betty and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Kelso family.

    Reply
  6. Captain Jesse J. Kelso, USN Ret

    The words most often associated with Admiral Kelso by those who knew him are integrity and humility, qualities which are rare indeed among people who achieve high positions in the armed forces and in government. I have had many people approach me who served with him over the years to ask if we were related. When I explained that we only had a common ancestor several hundred years ago, they would invariably go out of their way to explain not only how much they admired him, but also the personal impact he had on their lives Many of these people were enlisted as well as fellow officers and from all walks of life. I am grateful that I finally had the opportunity to serve under his leadership when he became Chief of Naval Operations. He will always be my role model and I am proud to be able to say that he is my hometown hero.

    I sincerely regret that I was unable to attend his funeral and I wish to express my condolences to his widow and his family. I know that he will be missed not only by you and the community in Fayetteville, but also by the larger Navy community both active and retired where his memory will live on.

    J.J. Kelso, Captain USN Ret.

    Reply
  7. W Harold Bigham

    I was a sophomore at Sewanee when Frank joined us there for one year. During that time I came to know him well, in part because we were both Lincoln County natives, he from Fayetteville and I from the Petersburg area. Our paths diverged when he left for the Naval Academy and a distinguished naval career, while I pursued law school teaching,

    His family can take pride in a life well lived and I grieve the death of yet another friend of my youth.

    Prof. Harold Bigham
    Pepperdine University School of Law

    Reply
  8. Chaplain Ray Fritz

    On behalf of the United States Submarine Veterans, our condolences to all of ADM Kelso’s family and friends. You are in our thoughts and prayers that God will whisper peace to your hearts and comfort you in your sorrow and loss. We are grateful for your courageous, dedicated and long service to the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Submarine Force, God and country. As our “Brother of the Phin” we say, “Sailor, rest your oar. May you rest in peace and may God bless your loved ones. Thank you for your service to God and country. God bless you with fair winds and calm seas.” — Rev. Ray Fritz, National Chaplain United States Submarine Veterans, USSVI.

    Reply
  9. Tippy Ingram

    To Georgia and The Admiral’s Family,

    You have my sympathy! May God Bless and Sustain you in this great loss.

    Reply
  10. RADM Winford G.(Jerry) Ellis USN(ret) and Rosemary

    A Giant of a Leader, a wonderful American, and a true Friend to all of us. He will be missed terribly. Our Nation was fortunate to have him lead our Navy.God bless him and his family
    Very Sincerely – Jerry and Rosemary .

    Reply
  11. john and anne underwood and family

    We are proud to say Adm Kelso was from Fayetteville. He always called you by your namel.

    Reply
  12. Howard Marshall

    My condolences to Admiral Kelso’s family. I have had the opportunity to work around Admiral Kelso from his tour as the SIXTHFLT Commander through his tour as Chief of Naval Operations. He was a great man who truly cared about Sailors during a very difficult time for our Navy. Fayetteville and Tennessee should be very proud of their very distinguished, patriotic son. LCDR Howard Marshall, USN (Ret)

    Reply
  13. J. Don Clark

    Frank and I played together as small children, and I cannot remember when we were not friends. He was an outstanding person. His wife, Landess, was one of my distant cousins. I will always remember him with great fondness. RIP, my friend.

    Reply
  14. Anita Noel

    Nice man and treated everyone with respect

    Reply
  15. Commander Lance R. Alderman, USNR (Ret)

    I am sorry to hear about Admiral Kelso’s passing and wish to express my condolences to his family. I worked for him when he was a Captain at the Navy Military Personnel Command (Bureau of Naval Personnel) and admired how he was a mentor and a genuine people person. The Navy and America need more men like Frank Kelso. It was an honor and privilege to have served under him.

    Reply
  16. Colonel USAF (Ret.) and Mrs. David L. Debus

    Frank and I were classmates at the Naval Academy and members of the 24th Company between 1952 and 1956. It was clear from the very beginning that he was destined for great things. He was a gentleman in every respect and a fine leader. He will be sorely missed by all that knew him.

    Our sympathies go to the Kelso family and all their friends. We have lost one of the very best.

    David Debus

    Reply
  17. Capt. & Mrs. (Jim and Mary Ann) Burritt, USN, Ret.

    I served with Admiral Kelso on USS Bluefish (SSN-675) for a period that included the 1973 mideast war in the Mediteranean. He was an excellent Skipper, and an officer with whom I would go to war.

    A perfect gentleman. It was an honor to serve with him.

    Reply
  18. Captain & Mrs (John & Mila) Bauman, USN (Ret)

    I feel privileged to have spent four years at the U. S. Naval Academy with Admiral Frank. We were Class of 1956 Midshipmen assigned to the 24th Company. Mila and I met with the Admiral several times during his career. He always made time to share close relations with us.

    An outstanding officer, perfect gentleman, classmate and friend! We shall all miss him. Our deepest sympathy to his family. May the grace and peace of God be with Admiral Kelso and his loving family.

    Reply
  19. VADM (Ret) Omar Eduardo Andujar-Zaiter, DRN

    Very distinguished ADM. Kelso’s Fa.:

    On behalf of my family and myself I would like to express my sympathy on the passing of Admiral Frank B. Kelso II, a great sailor and friend.

    God bless all of you; to ADM. Kelso RIP

    Reply
  20. Captain James J Harnes, Jr., USN (Ret)

    Admiral Kelso, or “The Boss”, as he was called by members of the SIXTHFLT Staff, was without doubt the most professional, caring and understanding senior leader with whom I was privileged to serve.

    We all have lost a great friend and mentor.

    Reply
  21. Judy and Bill Houley

    Frank and Landess always had time and love for their friends. There were never too many or too unimportant. Laughs and smiles were unlimited in supply and advice was offered when asked. They were both sources of inspiration and maintained their “down home” personalities even when Frank was a national/naval leader. Both will be long remembered and their impact on so many will be long lasting. God bless them both and also bless those who miss them most.

    Reply
  22. John Frankenburg, HMCM (SW) USN (Ret)

    I was privileged to serve under ADM Kelso when he was the Commander of Atlantic Fleet in the mid 80’s. The ADM was one of the finest Naval Officers I had the privilege to serve with.
    You served your county, the Navy and your family well. Rest in Peace Shipmate.

    My condolences to the Kelso family.

    Reply
  23. Roy A. Moyers, Jr. (buddy)

    We were not close friends but knew him anyway. I remember he was a good student in school. My prayers are with the family and friends at this time. Frank will be missed by many. Roy

    Reply
  24. Alan Syler

    We have lost a great man and shipmate.
    Sailor Rest Your Oar

    Reply
  25. MMCM(SS) Robert P. McCoy USN RET

    Admiral Kelso is without a doubt one of the most outstanding Naval Officers to ever hold the Rank and title of a Naval Officer. I have always appreciated the way he and Landess took care of the family members when we were deployed while I served as Chief of the Boat aboard the USS Los Angeles SSN 688. I enjoyed playing cards with him and having the pleasure of visiting him when he was at the Pentagon.
    My condolences to the family, you and I have lost a great individual.

    Reply
  26. Jan Duncan Frazier

    I have admired Frank Kelso since he was CNO and I was a “nobody” civilian on the CNET staff at NAS Pensacola. When I came to Fayetteville & found out he was a native son, I was in awe. When he reitred here, we became friends. What a brilliant man & devout man of God. I have also loved both his wives–Landess and Georgia. My heart goes out to Georgia and Frank’s family. The world grieves with you.

    Reply
  27. Jim Black

    It was an honor to know Adm. Kelso who not only served his country admirably, but also a man who loved his friends, his community and his God. A more humble man, I have never known. God bless your family during this time.
    Jim Black
    minister, Washington Street Church of Christ

    Reply
  28. Tom Benson

    I was always proud to say that Frank was a classmate. We have lost a great American.

    Reply
  29. Peggy G. Bevels

    To All The Kelso Family,
    Admiral Kelso was my friend and I will miss him terribly. He was always encouraging me in my job as mayor.

    He sent me many packages and boxes of his items that I kept until I was able to put them in the museum. He knew I was trying to have a museum here. We have an entire exhibit dedicated to this wonderful man.

    May your precious memories help carry you through this difficult time.

    In Christian Love,
    Peggy G. Bevels

    Reply
  30. James O. Moore

    Frank was a classmate, close friend, and fellow military veteran. I remember him especially in Central High School, but after his retirement, at other time. He was a true military man, so well respected. He will be missed. My prayers are with the family. As side note, Landess and I were distant cousins.

    Jim Moore

    Reply
  31. George W Baker

    Words cannot express the love and admiration I have for The Skipper and Landess. This man knew how to handle men as well as his Submarines. I have never served under a better man in all my Naval Career. When we lost Landess I had a feeling Frank had was ready to go too as all Great Loves do. God Bless and keep the two of you side by side again.

    Reply

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