Semper Fi: Robert ‘Bud’ McFarlane Dies at 84
By May 16, 2022 3 1810•
Robert “Bud” McFarlane, a national security adviser for President Ronald Reagan, died May 12 in Lansing, Michigan, while visiting for a family wedding, at the age of 84. His son, Scott McFarlane, told the Washington Post that the cause of death was an exacerbation of a previous lung condition.
“So much has been written recently about Bud McFarlane’s role in government and international affairs, but a truer measure of the man is how he conducted himself out of the spotlight, close to home,” longtime friend Grace Bateman told The Georgetowner. “Bud was a good neighbor and a good friend. He was much beloved here in Georgetown, touching many lives. We will miss him.”
Already well known in military and political circles, McFarlane gained national fame because of the Iran-Contra scandal which set up secret sales of weapons to Iran to funnel funds for the Contras in Nicaragua — questionably an “arms for hostages” deal — during the Cold War in the 1980s. Those Americans involved were also trying to free U.S. hostages in Lebanon being held by Hezbollah, a group under the influence of the revolutionary government in Iran.
McFarlane “was the only official in the Reagan White House to voluntarily accept legal blame in the Iran-contra scandal,” according to the Post.
So distraught and ashamed of his involvement in the affair was McFarlane that he contemplated suicide as he recounted in his 1994 memoir, “Special Trust.” He resigned his position in the Reagan Administration in 1985.
Born in Washington, D.C., on July 12, 1937, McFarlane was the son of a Texas Democratic congressman, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War. He retired as a Marine Corps lieutenant colonel in 1979.
For those in Georgetown, McFarlane and his wife Jonda were those good neighbors who lived on the 3400 block of Prospect Street. Their story tells the fuller tale of Robert “Bud” McFarlane.
Bud and Jonda McFarlane met in a church youth group when they were both in high school in Bethesda. After high school, Jonda went to Penn State, graduating with a degree in English, and Bud went to the Naval Academy. The high school sweethearts were married shortly after they graduated from college and had three children. The McFarlane family lived in Japan and in Switzerland during Bud’s tour in the Marine Corps. Their extended family — that now includes their three children, their spouses and eight grandchildren — remain close and often still vacation together.
In the mid-1980s, when Bud and Jonda were empty-nesters, they moved from Bethesda to Prospect Street in Georgetown and lived there until about 10 years ago when they moved to an apartment in the Watergate. Bud and Jonda were active members of the Georgetown community. They were longtime parishioners and took leadership roles at Georgetown Presbyterian Church.
Bud ardently supported Jonda’s volunteer community activities. Despite frequent international travel for his consulting business, Bud was a regular presence at community events in Georgetown, even after the McFarlanes had moved from the neighborhood. Bud was very generous with his time, serving as mentor to countless children of friends and neighbors, always eager to offer advice and encouragement. He was someone you would call if you needed help or just some good advice, and he would answer the call.
Jonda was the president of the Francis Scott Key Foundation, which created — with private funds — Francis Scott Key Park on M Street near Key Bridge and donated it to the National Park Service. (It was family friend, Sen. John McCain, who gave the dedication address for the park in 1993.) Jonda served on the Georgetown-Burleith Advisory Neighborhood Commission during the 1990s, including one term as its chair. Jonda is a founding member of Friends of Georgetown Waterfront Park, the moving force in building the waterfront park. She remains on the Board of the Friends group.
Memorial services for Bud McFarlane are pending — details to follow.