John P. Wheeler: 1944-2010

Jon Bershad at Mediaite:

Tragic news out of Delaware as a body discovered in a Delaware landfill on New Years Eve has been confirmed as John P. Wheeler III, a decorated veteran who worked with three different Presidential administrations. His death has been ruled a homicide.

Wheeler served in the Vietnam War, served as an aide to both Bush administrations as well as the Reagan administration, and was the chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund with whom he was instrumental in getting the Vietnam Memorial built. Recently, he had been working to get the ROTC brought back to Ivy League campuses. He was last seen on an Amtrak train last Tuesday.

Mark Thompson at Swampland at Time:

John Wheeler was one of those outer planets in the capital’s solar system, never drawing too close to the Sun but riding the country’s business in an elliptical orbit that would bring him closer to the heat every once in awhile. I can remember discussing the plight of Vietnam veterans with him — and their push for a memorial to commemorate their sacrifice — as well pondering the threat that cyber war posed to America. Sure, the topics were 180 degrees, and three decades, apart, but that’s the kind of Renaissance man Jack Wheeler was.
It came as a shock to all of us who knew him that Wheeler — West Point (1966), Harvard (1969) and Yale (1975) — ended up dead in a Delaware dump on Friday. There’s little publicly known about Wheeler’s final days, although he was believed to have been aboard an Amtrak train from the capital to Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday. His body surfaced as a trash truck — after picking up debris from 10 bins on the east side of Newark, Del., dumped its load at a landfill. Police have not specified how he died. He lived in nearby New Castle, Del., with his wife, Katherine Klyce, owner of a New York-based Cambodian silk company.
Jennifer Epstein at Politico:

John P. Wheeler III, a defense contractor who had worked for presidents George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, was last seen on Dec. 30 at 3:30 p.m. near the Hotel du Pont in downtown Wilmington – about two blocks from the office the lawyer handling his real estate case.

Information about the spotting was provided by a tipster and a police were able to confirm it, a spokesman said.

James Fallows:

I worked with Jack on a book called Touched With Fire, about the post-war experiences of people who were in uniform during Vietnam and people who (like me) were actively opposing the war. He was chairman of the committee that got the Vietnam Veterans Memorial built. That is now taken as a great, triumphant icon of commemorative architecture, but at the time the “black gash of shame” was bitterly controversial, and Jack Wheeler was in the middle of the controversy — raising money, getting approvals, collecting allies and placating critics until the wall was built. A few days before it opened he called to invite me to be one of the readers who would, over a long stretch of hours, take turns saying aloud the names of every person recorded on the wall.

He was a complicated man of very intense (and sometimes changeable) friendships, passions, and causes. His most recent crusade was to bring ROTC back to elite campuses, as noted here. That is what I was corresponding with him about  in recent months. To be within email range of Jack was to look forward to frequent, lengthy, often urgent-sounding and often overwrought dispatches on the state of the struggle. Late at night on Christmas Day, I was surprised to see this simple note from him:

>>Jim, Merry Christmas, Old Friend. Onward and upward.

Jack<<

I replied — thank goodness!, I now think — and assumed I would hear more from him soon on the ROTC struggle.

I have no idea what kind of trouble he may have encountered. As a lawyer quoted in the Delaware Online story said, “This is just not the kind of guy that gets murdered.” I feel terrible for his family and hope they will eventually find comfort in knowing how many important things he achieved.

Instapundit:

HMM: Body of Murdered Ex-GOP Official, a Yale Law Grad, is Found in Del. Landfill. “This is just not the kind of guy who gets murdered.”

Robert Stacy McCain:

No reason to speculate about this crime. Just let the police do their work. Nevertheless, we can expect that conspiracy theorists will offer all kinds of arcane explanations

Lady Liberty at Gateway Pundit

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