Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

James D. Watkins (1989–1993): Secretary of Energy

James David Watkins was born March 7, 1927, graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy (1949) and the Naval Submarine School (1951). In 1958, he received his M.A. in mechanical engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

Watkins served in the U.S. Navy for 37 years, holding several distinguished positions including Commander of the Sixth Fleet, Vice-Chief of Naval Operations, and Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet. He also served as Chief of Naval Personnel (1975-1978) and Chief of Naval Operations (1982-1986). President Ronald Reagan appointed him Chairman of the Presidential Commission on AIDS in 1987, and Watkins remained in that post until 1988.

President George H.W. Bush tapped Watkins to be run the Department of Energy, and Watkins was confirmed as secretary on March 1, 1989; he served in that capacity for the remainder of the Bush administration. He would later become president of the Joint Oceanographic Institute, Washington, D.C., and Trustee of the Carnegie Corporation (1993-1998).