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Artwork for the admiral
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When longtime Circuit Court Judge Charles D. Haston put down the gavel and retired in 2002, he quickly picked up a somewhat more creative instrument, a paintbrush, and was soon proving his artistic skills matched his acumen on the bench.
Haston’s colorful and wonderfully detailed paintings gained him accolades in shows locally, with a front-page article in the Southern Standard leading to a segment on “Tennessee Crossroads,” the popular Emmy Award-winning series airing on Nashville Public Television.
While his paintings are eminently marketable, Haston says selling his work for personal profit is not his goal. It’s mostly his family, friends and local charities that benefit from his talent.
But Haston recently ventured pretty far afield, all the way to the upper echelon of the U.S. Navy, when he presented one of his paintings to retired Adm. Frank B. Kelso II, a Fayetteville native who served as the Navy’s 24th Chief of Naval Operations, the top post in the Navy.
“He was Chief of Naval Operations, the No. 1 sailor in the country, for three or four years,” Haston said. “And I used to watch him on C-Span, CNN and so forth, in front of all these congressional committees where they were wringing him out and they never could seem to get ahead of him and I always admired him for that. I just felt he’s a great public servant.”
Eventually Haston learned, much to his surprise, there was actually a local connection, which he learned about through another of his artistic pursuits, this one musical, his membership in the Silver and Gold Band which brought him together with Dr. Neil Schultz and his wife, Ann. It turns out Kelso is a cousin of Ann’s.
Haston got the seed of an idea borne of his characteristically generous nature.
“He had retired and moved down to Fayetteville,” Haston said. “And I thought, well, I’d like to do something for him. So I painted a picture and gave it to him.”
The presentation gave Haston a chance to meet the man he had come to admire through his public appearances. He found despite a distinguished military career, not a lot of people knew of Kelso.
“After I found out who he was I corresponded with him and he kept saying nobody knows who I am,” Haston said. “He said, ‘I’m in that retirement phase where they keep asking, ‘What did you do?’ So I thought, you know, a four-star admiral needs to be remembered. So I found out about all of his medals and decorations and painted sort of a montage of all of those and gave it to him.”
Adm. Kelso has had quite a storied career in the Navy, including hosting a boat ride down the Potomac for Queen Elizabeth II of England in 1991 at the request of President George H.W. Bush. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1956, he served on cargo ships and eventually nuclear subs, where he excelled. He steadily rose through the ranks, making Rear Adm. in 1980.
He was promoted to four stars and assumed command of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet in June 1986. Assignments to Commander U.S. Atlantic command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Command Atlantic followed in 1988.
Adm. Kelso’s career culminated in his appointment s the 24th Chief of Naval Operations, which he held from 1990 to 1994, when he retired.
Haston says it was a real thrill for him to meet a man he considers a true American hero.
“It was fascinating and interesting to sit down with a man who ran the United States Navy for four years,” Haston said.
Amazingly, the conversation revealed another local connection to the Naval leader which went back to his days in the Naval Academy.
“His roommate was Bill Miller, who was a Navy pilot,” Haston said. “He quit and started flying as a test pilot for Grumman. He’s the one that named the F-14 the ‘Tomcat.’ While he was a test pilot for Grumman on Long Island, it crashed and he was killed. His brother Riley still lives here in McMinnville, so there’s a big connection there.”