John Clotworthy
John Clotworthy (BALTIMORE SUN)

John Harris Clotworthy, a key figure along with the French explorer Jacques Cousteau in building a submersible watercraft that took researchers to a depth of 4,000 feet, died of cancer Wednesday at his home in Annapolis. He was 87.

Known as Jack, Mr. Clotworthy was also a high-ranking government official, an entrepreneur, an accomplished yachtsman, a world traveler and a leader of a pipe organ restoration effort during a long career and a productive retirement.

Mr. Clotworthy was born in Baltimore in 1924 and was educated at Poly. He attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where he earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering as part of the Navy's V-12 college training program during World War II.

Unable to go to sea after catching pneumonia, he was nevertheless commissioned as an officer and left the service as a lieutenant junior grade.

After a two-year stint as a broadcast engineer with WCAO in Baltimore, in 1948 Mr. Clotworthy joined Westinghouse Electric, where he would work for the next 19 years, rising to the post of vice president of the Defense and Space Center and chairman of the Undersea Division.

It was in that role that Mr. Clotworthy negotiated an agreement with Mr. Cousteau, the famous oceanographic explorer, for the design and construction of the Deepstar 4000, a three-person submersible research vessel that operated at depths as low as 4,000 feet. The craft was built by Westinghouse in 1965 using technology developed by Mr. Cousteau and would go on to make hundreds of dives before being retired in 1972. Its dives were the subject of a National Geographic article in 1971.

"That was a very, very leading-edge development in that field," said Joseph Laing, a Westinghouse engineer who worked with Mr. Clotworthy on the project. "He was the leader. He was the idea man. He was the one who got that started in the first place."

In 1967, Mr. Clotworthy left Westinghouse to become chairman of the Division of Ocean Engineering at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami. A year later he founded and served as chief executive of Oceans General Inc., a publicly traded marine engineering and manufacturing company.

In 1971, Mr. Clotworthy joined the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as director of its Office of Congressional Liaison, serving as the agency's chief emissary to Capitol Hill. He stayed in that position until 1978, when he joined the nonprofit Joint Oceanographic Institutions Inc. as general manager.

Mr. Clotworthy retired from the oceanographic institute in 1988 but remained active in a variety of consulting and cultural activities for the rest of his life. In the early 1990s, he served pro bono as inspector general of the National Aquarium in Baltimore, scrutinizing its internal functions on a part-time basis.

A longtime pipe organist who got his start in his high school days playing in theaters, Mr. Clotworthy for many years had a large pipe organ in his Annapolis Cove home.

In 1998, Mr. Clotworthy became involved in an effort to restore the world's largest pipe organ at the renovated Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, serving as secretary-treasurer and director of the society formed to carry out the project. The instrument had suffered extensive water damage in a 1944 hurricane and had fallen into neglect before Mr. Clotworthy helped organize a group that worked to raise money and recruit organ experts for the effort, which was continuing at the time of Mr. Clotworthy's death.

"It was really kind of a passion with him," said longtime friend Ralph Reeder, a fellow organ enthusiast. "He devoted a lot of time to that effort."

From 1965 until his death, Mr. Clotworthy remained a member of the Annapolis Yacht Club even as his career took him to cities around the country.

I.C. "Cappy" Kidd, a past commodore of the yacht club, described his friend as a fearless sailor. He recalled taking a voyage with Mr. Clotworthy in the early 1990s aboard a 38-foot yacht from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Annapolis with "four days of the wind very much in the snout." But never once did Mr. Clotworthy — 20-30 years older than the rest of the crew — express a desire to run for shore, Mr. Kidd said.

"He was a marvelous yachtsman, a good seaman, never got seasick, competent navigator and a wonderful chef," Mr. Kidd said. "So he's the type of guy you want to have on board at any time."

Mr. Reeder said Mr. Clotworthy was passionate about his adopted hometown of Annapolis. When his wife of 54 years, the former Martha D. Wilson, died in 2001, he moved briefly to a senior living community in Prince George's County, Mr. Reeder said. But it was not long before he was back in Annapolis in his own condo.

"He said 'I've just got to get back to Annapolis. There's nothing over there for me,'" Mr. Reeder recalled.

Friends said Mr. Clotworthy was an enthusiastic traveler whose journeys took him as far afield as Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America. Mr. Kidd said he enjoyed the planning as much as the travel itself.

"He was always coming up with some long stretch of a trip," he said.

Terry Douglas, his life companion for the past seven years, said that even in his 80s Mr. Clotworthy traveled with her to Argentina, Switzerland, Paris and to the bed-and-breakfast inns of the Eastern Shore and the Shenandoah Mountains.

"He loved the mountains and the fresh air. He loved to escape," she said. Up until last year, he said, he played tennis three times a week.

Claude Crawford, a close friend and fellow yachtsman who now lives in Florida, said Mr. Clotworthy was a man who always wanted to be in motion.

"He had been so many places and done so many remarkable things that it was hard to believe that one person had done them," Mr. Crawford said.

Mr. Clotworthy is survived by Ms. Douglas; a son, John Stewart Clotworthy of Fallston, and three grandchildren.

No services are planned, but Ms. Douglas said a "life celebration party" will be held in the next few months.