John William Middendorf II of Little Compton was born in Baltimore, Maryland on September 22, 1924. He graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1945 with a bachelor’s degree in naval science after having served in World War II as an engineering officer and navigator aboard LCS 53. He then earned an A.B. from Harvard College in 1947 and received his MBA from the Stern School of Business, at New York University in 1954. “Bill” as he is known, then became an investment banker, and founded Middendorf, Colgate and Company, and gained a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.
“Having learned how to make money,” he writes in his memoir, “I wanted to learn how to make a difference.” He became actively involved in politics, first at the local level in Connecticut and then with the presidential campaign of Senator Barry Goldwater in 1964 as treasurer of the Republican National Committee.
Bill followed these initiatives with a series of challenging public service appointments: Ambassador to the Netherlands, Under Secretary and later Secretary of the Navy, Ambassador to the Organization of American States, and Ambassador to the European Community.
He has also served in leadership positions on many boards and councils including: the Council of American Ambassadors; Defense Forum Foundation; the Heritage Foundation; and the International Republican Institute.
During his time as Secretary of the Navy, Bill oversaw the establishment of the General Dynamics facility at Quonset Point, now one of Rhode Island’s largest employers. He also created the Marine Corps Marathon, and its trophy for the winner has been named in his honor.
In addition to his governmental and civic exploits, Ambassador Middendorf has authored two major books, Glorious Disasterm Barry Goldwater’s Presidential Campaign and the Origins of the Conservative Movement and Potomac Fever: A Memoir of Politics and Public Service.
“I have great respect for Bill Middendorf,” President George H.W. Bush said in reference to Potomac Fever. “He was always constructively involved in the political world, and he is a good friend. For those who believe in public service, Bill Middendorf’s memoirshould be a must read.”
Another admirer, Edwin J. Feulner, founder of The Heritage Foundation, has stated that “Bill Middendorf is an inspired leader and full-time participant in the public policy process here in Washington.”
Ambassador Middendorf’s versatility also extends to the arts. He is a prolific composer of symphonies, including more than 100 marches and the Holland Symphony which he presented to Dutch Queen Juliana on the 25th anniversary of her ascension to the throne.
For his musical efforts, Bill received the “Edwin Franko Goldman Award” from the American Bandmasters Association and is a member of the American Society of Composers and Performers. Other of his honors include: Navy Distinguished Public Service Award (1976); U.S. Olympic Committee Gold Shield Award; and the State of New York’s Distinguished Patriot Award (1976).
Bill is a proud member of the Rhode Island Society of the Sons of the Revolution, and the Navy League National Advisory Council,the Naval Sea Cadet Board of Directors, and the Navy League of the United States.
— Kenneth Dooley