You are here

Gen. Jack N. Merritt

Gen. Jack N. Merritt, who rose from Army draftee private to four-star general and United States representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, died on Jan. 3, 2018, at his home in Virginia.

Merritt was born in Lawton in 1930 and married Rosemary Ralston, also a Lawton native, in 1953. He entered the Army at Fort Sill as a private and was commissioned from the Field Artillery Officer Candidate School. He was commanding general of Fort Sill from October 1977 to July 1980.

Merritt was a 1948 graduate of Classen High School and attended the University of Oklahoma. While he graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, he maintained a loyalty to and relationship with the University of Oklahoma throughout his life.

In his 36 years of service Merritt's career followed three main routes: education, defense and foreign policy, and organization and equipment development.

As a military educator Gen. Merritt served as commandant of the Field Artillery School, commandant of the Army Command and General Staff College and commandant of the Army War College. He also was instrumental in major reforms at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point following the cheating scandals of 1976 and participated in a review of the academy's honor system in 1989. Merritt' s interest in education continued in retirement while serving on the Georgia Tech Advisory Board for six years, as chairman of the Citadel Advisory Board for 10 years and as a member of the Board of Visitors of the College of International Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Fairly early in his career, General Merritt became involved in major defense policy matters as an analyst in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Systems Analysis). Working on NATO strategy and force structure, he was heavily involved in the McNamara 1960s decision to withdraw major forces from Europe. Following a year in battalion command in Vietnam, he joined the National Security Council Staff working for Henry Kissinger on arms control. As a lieutenant colonel Merritt chaired the Verification Panel Working Group that coordinated the inter-agency policy analysis in support of the Strategic Arms Initiation Talks that resulted in the SALT Agreement in 1972. As lieutenant general, Merritt served as director of the Joint Staff, involving him in all of the nation's political/military affairs. His final assignment as U.S. representative to NATO found him again involved in Arms Control negotiations involving the U.S. Soviet Intermediate Range Nuclear Missile negotiation, resulting in the INF Treaty.

Merritt served in command and on staff positions at every level, including battery command in Korea and Europe and battalion command in Vietnam. In the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, he was division artillery commander, division chief of staff and assistant division commander. He commanded Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Carlisle Barracks, Pa.; and Fort Leavenworth, Kan. 

Upon retiring from the Army, General Merritt became president of the Association of the U.S. Army, the leading Army advocate organization, serving until 1998.

In addition to his education interests, he was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, adjunct fellow at the Center for Security and International Studies, visiting fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, member of Washington Institute for Foreign Affairs, member of the World Affairs Council in Washington, D.C., vice chairman and lifetime director of the Atlantic Council of the United States, member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and member of the Advisory Board of the Marshall Institute in Garmisch, Germany.

Gen. Merritt also served as vice chairman of the George C. Marshall Foundation, chairman of the Marshall Legacy Institute (promoting recovery of land mines from underdeveloped nations) and as chairman of the Advisory Board of the Army Distaff Foundation. He was vice chairman of the Army and Air Force Mutual Aid Association and served on several corporate boards. He was chairman of the U.S. Field Artillery Association and a member of the Kappa Alpha order of the Association of the U.S. Army's 9th Division Chapter and the 1st Cavalry Division Chapter.

He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska, Omaha, an MBA from George Washington University, and an Honorary Doctorate of Military Science from the Citadel. In 1974 he attended the Advanced Management Seminar at the University of California, Berkeley. Military schools included the Field Artillery School, Air Force Command and Staff College, and Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Gen. Merritt is listed in Who's Who and is a member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, the Fort Leavenworth Hall of Fame and the Officer Candidate School at Fort Sill Hall of Fame. He was named colonel of the regiment for the 34th Field Artillery.

His military awards include Defense Distinguished Service Medal (two awards), Army Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Soldier Medal, Bronze Star for Valor, Navy Commendation Medal for Valor and the Air Medal (20 awards), as well as other awards for merit and service.

 He was a parishioner, member of the vestry, senior warden and treasurer at Christ Church, Alexandria, Va. He belonged to the Army Navy Country Club, the Washington Golf and Country Club, the Army and Navy Town Club and the Historic Georgetown Club.

Gen. Merritt is survived by his wife of 64 years, Rosemary, and his two sons, Grover Merritt of Tulsa, and Roger Merritt of Morristown, N.J., as well as six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His eldest son Stephen predeceased him in 1996. He is also survived by a sister, Barbara Merritt, Oklahoma City.

The Lawton Constitution

102 SW 3rd, Lawton, OK
Classifieds: (580) 357-9545
Circulation: (580) 353-6397
Switchboard: (580) 353-0620