Navy Vice Adm. Earl Fowler, a longtime Alexandria resident who spilt his time between the city and Sarasota, FL., suffered a fatal heart attack at sea Feb. 8 while on a South American cruise with his wife to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. He was 82.
During the 1980s Fowler was one of the top Navy officials in the Reagan Administration, helping to oversee an unprecedented expansion and modernization of the Navys fleet. Fowler helped carry out President Reagans pledge to bolster the nations military strength, including the goal of a 600-ship Navy.
He ended his 42-year career in the Navy as commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command and chief engineer of the Navy in Alexandria, from 1980 until retirement in 1985. Fowler was responsible for nearly a third of the Navys $100 billion budget, and was known for being adept at dealing with members of Congress who questioned Naval oversight. Former Navy Secretary John Lehman once called Fowler a blue suiter superstar and a sailor who built ships.
Fowler qualified to retire 20 years earlier, but continued to serve because the Navy was his life. He liked what he was doing and the Navy had been good to him and kept promoting him, his wife, Helen told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Born Sept. 29, 1925, in Jacksonville, FL, Earl Bealle Fowler received a mechanical engineering degree from Georgia Tech in 1946 and an electrical engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1949. He joined the Navy in 1943 and served aboard several vessels.
During his storied Naval career he worked on numerous military programs, including the Apollo space program, oceanographic research, surveillance and space systems. He received several awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit.
Fowler and his wife bought a beachfront condo on Siesta Key, FL. in 1976 and divided their time between Alexandria and Sarasota after he retired.
After his Navy career, he headed his own consulting firm, the Arlington-based Fowler International Group, and served on the boards of several companies, including Intelliworxx and the nonprofit G. Wiz science museum.
He also was active in the Navy League, the Military Officers Association, the Sons of the American Revolution and the Church of the Redeemer.
In addition to Helen, his wife of more than 60 years, he is survived by two daughters, Mary Fowler and Joan Fowler, both of Alexandria.
A memorial service will be held March 14 in Sarasota. Fowler will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on April 9, with full military honors.