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John Warner (1927–2021), longtime U.S. Senator and sixth husband of Elizabeth Taylor

by Linnea Crowther

John Warner was a Republican U.S. Senator from Virginia who served from 1979 to 2009, as well as the former U.S. Secretary of the Navy.

Military and political career

Warner enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 17 in 1945, serving during the last months of World War II. After attending college and law school, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1950 and served in the Korean War. He served as an assistant U.S. attorney and worked in private law practice before being named U.S. Secretary of the Navy in 1972, serving until 1974. When Warner ran for the U.S. Senate in 1978, he initially lost the Republican primary in Virginia. However, after the winner, Richard D. Obenshain, was killed in a plane crash a few months before the general election, Warner was chosen to replace him in the race. He won, and he went on to be elected for four more terms before choosing to retire rather than run again in 2008. Warner chaired the Senate Rules Committee and Senate Armed Forces Committee during his tenure in office. He became known for his moderate conservative views, sometimes departing from the party line on issues including supporting an assault weapons ban and LGBTQ rights.

Personal life

Warner was also well known for high-profile romantic relationships, particularly his marriage to actress Elizabeth Taylor (1932–2011). The two were wed in 1976, his second marriage and her sixth, and they later divorced in 1981. Warner was the last surviving of Taylor’s husbands. Prior to their marriage, he was married to banking heiress Catherine Conover Mellon, with whom he had three children. Warner also dated journalist Barbara Walters. He is survived by his third wife, Jeanne Vander Myde Warner.

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Notable quote

“I was honest and independent in my thinking. I practiced my politics that way… even though I’ve crossed the line to support other candidates, because I always go for what’s best for Virginia, and then what’s best for your party. I have a quixotic spirit in me, and I always do what I feel needs to be done. I loved it, though. I wouldn’t trade the years for anything.” —from a 2017 interview for CNN

Tributes to John Warner

Full obituary: The Washington Post

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