Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
William Anderson (naval officer)
Anderson was born in Humphreys County, Tennessee in the rural community of Bakerville, south of Waverly. He graduated from the former Columbia Military Academy in Columbia, Tennessee in 1939, and from the United States Naval Academy in 1942.
His service in World War II was distinguished. He was awarded the Bronze Star and several other combat decorations from participation in a total of eleven combat submarine patrols. He was selected by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover to be the skipper of the first working nuclear submarine to be placed into service, the USS Nautilus, and was its commander from 1957 to 1959. Anderson and his crew received international notice when the Nautilus became the first submarine to sail sucessfully under the polar ice cap surrounding the North Pole.
Upon retiring from the Navy, Anderson entered politics. He mounted an independent campaign for governor of Tennessee in 1962, finishing second to former Democratic governor Frank G. Clement. While the race was not particularly close, he made several important political contacts and provided Clement with his primary competition outside of the Republican stronghold of East Tennessee. In 1964 he entered the Democratic primary to replace Sixth District Congressman Ross Bass, who was running for the United States Senate, and won both the nomination and the subsequent general election. He was reelected three times. He only dropped below 70 percent in 1968, when Richard Nixon won the state.
Anderson proved to be somewhat more liberal than could have reasonably been expected from his district and his military background. He was well-regarded in some Democratic circles and was sometimes mentioned as potentially having a bright future, with some even suggesting him as a potential vice presidential nominee in 1972 based largely upon his military record. However, his independent gubernatorial race and his progressive tendencies had not been forgotten by many of his fellow Democrats, particularly in the state legislature. Tennessee was slated to lose a Representative as a result of the 1970 census and Anderson's district was considerably reconfigured prior to the 1972 elections. In reapportionment, his district received a large area where Republican influence was strong and growing while simultaneously losing some solidly Democratic areas, and observers felt that if there was a vunerable Democratic incumbent in the Tennesseee Congressional delegation in 1972, it was probably Anderson. This came to pass in the gigantic Republican landslide of 1972, in which President Nixon carried 49 of the 50 states and 90 of Tennessee's 95 counties and Anderson lost to Republican Robin Beard by 12 points. He retired from public life.
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