Retired Adm. William Crowe Jr., former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ambassador to Great Britain, died Thursday at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.
Navy officials did not immediately release a cause of death for the 82-year-old.
"We lost a true hero last night ... a distinguished naval officer, diplomat, leader, mentor (who) served both Presidents Reagan and Bush," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, said at a Pentagon press conference.
At age 44, he volunteered for duty in Vietnam. Years later, as only the third admiral to chair the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Crowe presided over the military conflict with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, the U.S. Navy's protection of oil tankers in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war and a groundbreaking series of meetings with his Soviet counterpart as the Cold War thawed in the late 1980s.
Born in La Grange, Ky, Crowe grew up in Oklahoma City, Okla.
In addition to having a degree from the naval academy, he had a master's degree in personnel administration from Stanford University and a masters and doctorate in politics from Princeton University.
President Reagan named him the 11th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1985. He turned down President George H.W. Bush's offer of a third two-year term and retired from the military in 1989.
But he did not stay in retirement. In 1994, President Clinton appointed him ambassador to Great Britain, where he served until 1997.
Crowe is survived by his wife, Shirley; his daughter, Bambi; and his sons, Brent and Blake.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press