Former Assistant Secretary of Commerce Cary Langhorne Washburn Passes Away

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Lang embodied the very best of the American values and spirit.

Lang Washburn

Lang embodied the very best of the American values and spirit.

Cary Langhorne Washburn passed away on Friday the 4th of March, 2011, at his home, Holly Hill, in Middleburg Virginia, at the age of 92. He died of natural causes. A remarkable American, Lang Washburn’s long life was full of adventure and accomplishment, and reflects the grand adventure of America in the 20th century. In many respects Lang embodied the very best of the American values and spirit. He was a descendant of the Washburn brothers of his grandfather’s generation, who helped found the Republican Party and played leading roles in the abolitionist movement and the Civil War. He inherited a love for the Republican Party and devoted his middle years to helping elect moderate Republicans to federal office. His father Stanley Washburn was a war correspondent and a grand adventurer throughout the globe.

Lang was born in Livermore Falls, Maine on July 14, 1918. Along with his brother and best friend Stanley Jr., Lang grew up in Lakehurst, New Jersey, in the shadow of the great dirigibles of the 1930s. Lang and Stanley's lifetime of adventures together started with the design and construction of their own blimp, which they flew at great peril on flights up and down the Eastern Coast. Lang received his formal education at the Hotchkiss School and the University of Virginia. With the outbreak of World War II, Lang saw action in the South Pacific from 1942-46, piloting massive PBY and PBM military seaplanes, hunting submarines, rescuing sailors and downed airmen, and almost losing his own life in a kamikaze attack.

Lang returned after the war to the Bay Area, where he married Peggy Harrison in 1944. He had a diverse career, starting out as a commercial real estate broker in San Francisco from 1946-47. From 1947-55, he served as a test pilot and Operations Manager for the Hiller Helicopter Corporation, where he flew the first pilotless helicopter in history and survived several crashes. His love for flight surfaced again in the Eisenhower presidential campaigns of 1952 and 1956, when he took a leave of absence from his job to manage the unique Bandwagon campaign from coast to coast, which featured dozens of “We like Ike” blimps. He served as Vice Chairman of the National Citizens for Eisenhower Committee in 1952 and in 1956 was the Director of the Campaign for National Citizens for Eisenhower. Lang moved to New York in 1956, and from 1956-59 was executive vice president of Bernard Relin and Associates of New York, a corporate public relations firm. He married Paula Melhado in 1959. From 1960-61 he was President of the Automated Preference Testing Corporation, and from 1962-65 he served as an inventor and Vice President of the A.C. Nielson Company, Aptimeter Division.

In 1965 Lang moved to Washington DC, where he met and married Judith Davies to whom he was married for 44 years. For the last 33 years Lang and Judy have lived at their rural home, Holly Hill, in Middleburg Virginia. Lang was Director of Finance for the Republican National Committee from 1965-70, when he was appointed by President Nixon as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Tourism; he went on to serve in this position during the Ford Administration. He left national service in 1975 to serve as Vice President for Walt Disney Productions from 1975-83, where his duties included the recruitment of foreign governments to participate in the EPCOT World Showcase facility at Walt Disney World.

After retiring from Disney, Lang devoted his time to development consulting for nonprofit institutions, corporate clients, and community projects in the Middleburg area. His consummate fund-raising skills have benefited dozens of worthy causes, boosting support for affordable housing, education, the arts, and community improvements. He served on many boards, including the Wolf Trap Symphony, the Metropolitan Club of Washington D.C., the Union Club of New York, and the Edgartown Yacht Club. His adages “Success is assured unless energy fails” and “There’s always a procedure” were continually illustrated by the enthusiasm, energy, and creativity he brought to whatever endeavors and adventures he took on. Throughout his life Lang was a great outdoorsman, sailor and aviator. He spent his summers in Edgartown, and was a devoted sailor, fisherman, and pilot. A masterful story-teller and a terrific husband, father, and grandfather, Lang lived a life full of adventure and great humor. He is survived by his wife Judith Davies, by his seven children, Alice Taylor, San Mateo, CA, Cary Washburn, Cuernavaca, Mexico, Tayloe Washburn, Seattle, WA, Alexandra Washburn-Weidlein, Oxford, MS, Pammy Brooks, Greenwich, CT, Serena Washburn, Barcelona, Spain, and Natalie Washburn, Washington D.C., and by fourteen grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

A Celebration of Lang’s life will be held at Trinity Church in Upperville, VA at 11:00am on Saturday, March 12, 2011. At the family's request, memorial contributions may be made to Washburn-Norlands Living History Center, 290 Norlands Road, Livermore, ME 04253 or The Windy Hill Foundation, PO Box 1593, Middleburg VA 20118.

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