Former transportation secretary dies at 82

Claude Brinegar was an oil executive and collector of Mark Twain memorabilia

Claude Stout Brinegar, who served as the nation's third secretary of transportation, died March 13 at Classic Hyatt Care Center in Palo Alto. Mr. Brinegar, who maintained homes in Menlo Park and Boothbay Harbor, Maine, was 82.

Mr. Brinegar served as secretary of transportation in Richard Nixon's cabinet in 1973-75. He did not know Mr. Nixon when he was tapped for the transportation post as part of a move to add several businessmen and professional managers to Mr. Nixon's cabinet, say family members.

He stayed on for six months after Mr. Nixon's resignation. Although he admired Gerald Ford, he did not want to be part of an election campaign, say family members.

He returned to Union Oil in 1975 and in 1980-81, headed Ronald Reagan's transportation transition team. He returned to the Democratic Party in the 1990s.

Mr. Brinegar spent nearly 40 years in the oil industry, joining Union Oil Co. of California in 1953 and rising to executive vice president and chief financial officer of the renamed Unocal Corp. by the time he retired in 1992.

He served on the Union Oil/Unocal board from 1968 to 1973 and FROM 1975 to 1995, the last five years as vice chairman.

Born Claude Rawles Stout in Rockport, California, on Dec. 16, 1926, Mr. Brinegar took the name of his stepfather, Butler Brinegar, in 1951.

He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in Japan and Korea in 1945-47. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with three degrees from Stanford University, a bachelor's degree in economics, a master's in statistics, and a doctorate in applied economics from Stanford's Food Research Institute.

After retiring in 1992, he return to the institute to serve as a visiting scholar for four years.

An avid collector of Mark Twain first editions and related memorabilia, he proved by statistical tests that Mr. Twain was not the author of a collection of letters attributed to him. Elmira College awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1997 for his public service and Twain-related work.

Mr. Brinegar is survived by his wife, Karen Bartholomew, whom he married in 1995; his children, Claudia Berglund of Huntington Beach, Meredith Cross of Washington, D.C., and Thomas Brinegar of Cody, Wyoming; and four grandchildren.

His marriage to the former Elva Jackson in 1950 ended in divorce. In 1983 he married Mary Katharine Porter, who died in 1993.

At his request there will be no services. The family prefers contributions to the Mark Twain Studies Center, Elmira College, Elmira, NY 14901; or the Mark Twain House, 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford, CT 06105.

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Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 17, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Claude was a good neighbor and was well liked by the people in Sharon Oaks. He will be missed. Our condolences to Karen.

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