Oral History Transcript

Author: Dr. Fred H. Allison; Jim Webb

James Webb, former U.S. Senator from Virginia, has been a combat Marine, a counsel in the Congress, an assistant secretary of defense and Secretary of the Navy, an Emmy-award winning journalist, a filmmaker, a professor of literature, a resident fellow at two of America’s most prestigious universities, and is the author of 10 books.

Webb graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968, one of 18 midshipmen to receive the superintendent’s commendation for outstanding leadership. First in his class of 243 at the Marine Corps Officer’s Basic School, he served as a rifle platoon and company commander in Vietnam and was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals and two Purple Hearts. He graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1975, having received the Horan Award for excellence in legal writing.

Webb served Congress as counsel to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs from 1977 to 1981. In 1982, he led the fight to include an African-American soldier in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall. In 1984, he was appointed assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, and in 1987 became the first Naval Academy graduate to serve in the military and then become secretary of the Navy. He was a fall 1992 fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics and currently serves as the inaugural distinguished fellow at Notre Dame’s International Security Center. In 2014, he was awarded the University of Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson award for citizen leadership, its highest recognition for public service.

While in the Senate in 2007, Webb was selected to deliver the response to the president’s State of the Union address, and served on the Foreign Relations, Armed Services, Veterans Affairs, 9 and the Joint Economic committees. He wrote, introduced, and guided to passage the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the most significant veterans legislation since World War II, and coauthored legislation that exposed $60 billion of waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan wartime-support contracts. A long-time advocate of fixing America’s broken criminal justice system, Webb was spotlighted in The Atlantic Magazine as one of the world’s “Brave Thinkers” for tackling prison reform and possessing “two things vanishingly rare in Congress: a conscience and a spine.”


Read the full oral history transcript here.