W. Graham Claytor Jr.; Former Amtrak Chief
W. Graham Claytor Jr., former chief executive of Amtrak and secretary of the Navy under President Jimmy Carter, died Saturday after a long illness. He was 82.
Claytor, who suffered from cancer, died near his home at a hospital in Bradenton, Fla., according to Amtrak spokeswoman Sue Martin.
Claytor was Amtrak’s president and chairman from 1982 until his retirement in December. A lifelong railroad buff, he was widely acknowledged for saving the National Railroad Passenger Corp.--Amtrak’s formal name--from losing all federal funding. He operated the government-owned railroad like a private business, paying strict attention to the bottom line.
Last year, Claytor handed over the leadership of Amtrak to Thomas Downs, who called it “kind of a miracle” that Claytor kept Amtrak alive during a decade of hostile administrations.
Before joining Amtrak, Claytor was chairman and chief executive officer of Southern Railway. At a time when many railroads were in financial straits, Claytor made the railroad’s New York-New Orleans “Southern Crescent” passenger train a showpiece, and continued to run it after most other railroads had turned their passenger operations over to Amtrak in 1971.
Claytor joined Southern as vice president of law in 1963, and rose to president in 1967 and chairman in 1976.
After he retired from Southern in 1977, Claytor became secretary of the Navy and served in that post until 1979, when he was selected to be acting secretary of transportation.
He was deputy secretary of defense from 1979 to 1981.
Claytor was born in 1912 in Roanoke, Va. He attended the University of Virginia and Harvard Law School, where he was president of the Harvard Law Review.