Captain James Lenus McClane, USN, Retired, died peacefully at home on May 17, 2023, after a long illness. He dedicated his life steadfastly to his three passions: the United States Navy, his family, and his friends.
Born in Charleston, SC, October 3, 1946, Captain McClane and his family traveled the United States with his father, Captain Joseph McClane, USN, Retired. The family, ultimately, settled in Virginia Beach, the ideal place in which to pursue Captain McClane’s childhood dream of becoming a naval officer. He graduated from Norfolk Academy, received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy, and graduated with his commission in 1970.
His initial assignment was on USS RICHARD E. BYRD (DDG 23) where he served as a missile/gunnery assistant, fire control officer and CIC officer until 1973. Upon graduation from the U. S. Naval Postgraduate School with a Master’s of Science in electrical engineering and completion of department head school, he reported to USS BUCHANAN (DDG 14) as weapons officer in 1977. After this tour, Captain McClane was selected as the commissioning combat systems officer for USS TICONDEROGA (CG 47). He participated in the first series of AEGIS training courses at the Combat Systems Engineering Development Site, in Moorestown, New Jersey, and served on TICONDEROGA from pre-commissioning through the first deployment from 1980 to 1984. Captain McClane served as executive officer of USS BELKNAP (CG 26) from 1984 to 1986 and assumed command of USS WADDELL (DDG 24) in 1987.
Captain McClane, then, served as senior combat systems member, underway senior inspector, and acting senior surface member of the Washington Board of Inspection and Survey from 1989-1991. After a joint professional-military education at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, he reported to the United States Atlantic Command in 1992. His assignments there included deputy director for plans and policy (J5A) and chief, cruise missile division (J56). Captain McClane commanded USS PHILIPPINE SEA (CG 58) from 1996- 1998. He assumed command of the Afloat Training Group Atlantic in 1998, from which he retired in 2001. After his retirement from the Navy, his experience allowed an easy transition to the technology integrator and defense contractor SAIC, where he worked for several years before fully retiring from professional life.
His personal awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit Medal, four Meritorious Service Medals, Navy Achievement Medal, and various unit and area awards.
Jim was supported in his more than 30 year naval career by his loving family. He always called his wife Carol “the best thing that ever happened to me,” and she called him “the love of my life and my best friend.” Despite, or maybe because of, his many deployments, Jim “was strictly a homebody and the epitome of a family man,” and his favorite times were relaxing at home with his wife and sons. Carol was initially attracted to him because he was so family-oriented and straight forward: “He told me how hard being a military wife was going to be. It was almost as if he were trying to dissuade me from marrying him, but it didn’t work. He was kind, honest, trustworthy, devoted, and he never changed.” On deployments, when his sons were young, he recorded himself reading children’s books so Carol and his sons could read along with his taped voice: “He was concerned because the boys were so young, and he felt it was important that they hear his voice while he was away.” His sons joined him on Tiger Cruises (family cruises at the end of deployments) as well as tours of the ships on which he was stationed. He also made sure that Carol and his sons knew that he “would always try to be there if he could” and that they should never put their lives on hold if he was unable to attend an event.
Jim took friendship very seriously, and many of his closest friends are former shipmates or classmates. For instance, for the past 45 years, the McClanes and three other families (all of whom they had met through the Navy) have taken summer vacations together on Cape Cod. Recently, a friend wrote, “I wanted you to know that serving with you and having our families grow up together was one of the high-water marks of my Navy career. I have never met a man more honest, trustworthy, and competent in my life, and I thank you for your true friendship.” Another friend wrote, “You are a great shipmate, and I am honored to call you a friend.”
When Jim was younger, he was an avid long-distance runner and scuba diver. After retirement, Jim became involved in several community service organizations, including the Optimist Club and the Chelsea-Green Hill-Meadowridge Civic League, for which he was past president. He spent much of his time reading about politics, history (the Civil War was one of his favorite topics), and biographies. His home office was filled with piles of books he had read and books he was going to read—and, despite the seeming disorder, he knew exactly which pile contained which books.
He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Carol of Virginia Beach; their two sons, John L. McClane of Los Angeles, and Michael F. McClane of Virginia Beach; brother Thomas J. McClane of Riverside County; niece Christine McClane Tesi, her husband John, and two children, Jenna Beth and Joseph Christopher of Los Angeles; cousin Michele L. Flynn of Los Angeles, her daughter, Anela Flynn, and granddaughter, Malia A. Flynn, of Portland, Oregon. He is predeceased by his parents, Captain Joseph L. McClane, USN, Retired, and Elizabeth F. McClane; and his brother, John Michael McClane.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Fisher House Foundation at fisherhouse.org. A private funeral Mass was held in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at Little Creek Naval Base. Arrangements for his memorial service in Virginia Beach (to take place in the fall), and his interment in Arlington National Cemetery have not been finalized. Hollomon-Brown Funeral Home, Great Neck is assisting the family. Condolences may be expressed to the family at www.hollomon-brown.com
Updated: June 15, 2023
Curator: Ed Moore