June 30 (UPI) — Donald Rumsfeld, who served as defense secretary under Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, has died in Taos, N.M., his family announced Wednesday. He was 88.
He died of multiple myeloma Tuesday, family spokesman Keith Urbahn told The New York Times.
“History may remember him for his extraordinary accomplishments over six decades of public service, but for those of us who knew him best and whose lives were forever changed as a result, we will remember his unwavering love for his wife Joyce, his family and friends, and the integrity he brought to a life dedicated to country,” a family statement on Rumsfeld’s Twitter account said.
In a statement posted to the George W. Bush Presidential Center website, Bush praised Rumsfeld for his “strength, skill and honor” during the wartime years he served as Pentagon chief.
“A man of intelligence, integrity, and almost inexhaustible energy, he never paled before tough decisions, and never flinched from responsibility. He brought needed and timely reforms to the Department of Defense, along with a management style that stressed original thinking and accountability,” Bush said.
“All his life, he was good-humored and big-hearted, and he treasured his family above all else. Laura and I are very sorry to learn of Don’s passing, and we send our deepest sympathy to Joyce and their children. We mourn an exemplary public servant and a very good man.”
Born Donald Henry Rumsfeld on July 9, 1932, in Chicago, the former defense secretary was an Eagle Scout before attending Princeton University and joining the Navy in 1954. He served there as a naval aviator and flight instructor until 1957, when he transferred to the Naval Reserve. He retired with the rank of captain in 1989.
Rumsfeld was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for Illinois’ 13th congressional district in 1962 and served four terms.
He quit the House to serve in the Nixon administration, and became Ford’s chief of staff in 1974 before being nominated to succeed outgoing Defense Secretary James Schlesinger a year later. Ford awarded Rumsfeld the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award possible.
Rumsfeld returned to the private sector after Ford left office, working at G.D. Searle & Company, General Instrument Corporation and Gilead Sciences Inc.
He returned to public service in 1983, when President Ronald Reagan named him as special envoy to the Middle East. Rumsfeld again served as secretary of defense in 2001 under the Bush administration, leading the United States into war in Iraq and Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Rumsfeld resigned from the Bush Cabinet under criticism from the nation’s highest-ranked retired military officials over his leadership during the wars.
After retiring, he wrote a book titled Known and Unknown: A Memoir, formed The Rumsfeld Foundation and even designed a gaming app titled Churchill Solitaire.
He is survived by his wife, Joyce Rumsfeld, three children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.