JFKWHP-KN-C17212 (crop): President Kennedy Attends Swearing-In Ceremony for Under Secretary of the Navy Paul “Red” Fay, 24 February 1961

Paul Burgess Fay, Jr. - known as Red, a nickname his father gave him as a child - was Under Secretary of the Navy from 1961 to 1965, and a close personal friend and confidant of President John F. Kennedy. Fay was born in San Francisco on July 8, 1918. His father was president of the Fay Improvement Co., a heavy construction firm founded in 1875. Fay attended the Thatcher School in Ojai, California and later Stanford University. After graduating from Stanford in 1941, Fay worked for his father's construction firm and enlisted in the U.S. Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Fay attended Officer Candidate School and was assigned to PT boat training at Melville, Rhode Island. Kennedy, a junior naval officer at the time, was Mr. Fay's instructor. Both men were dispatched to the South Pacific, where they were part of the same squadron -- Kennedy as skipper of PT 109, Mr. Fay as executive officer of PT 174 and subsequently captain of PT 167, based at Tulagi in the Solomon Islands. On the night of Aug. 2, 1943, a 2,000-ton Japanese destroyer rammed PT 109, and the collision and ensuing explosion killed two of Kennedy's men. Despite an injured back, the 26-year-old skipper and his surviving 10 comrades swam over a vast distance to an island, with Kennedy pulling a badly burned crew member in his wake. The men were rescued a few days later. About the same time, Mr. Fay's boat was disabled when a torpedo from a Japanese plane bounced on the water and tore through the craft just below the water line. The boat didn't explode, and the crew managed to get it back to base, where it sank as it docked. Mr. Fay received a Bronze Star for his actions in the incident. For about a month, Fay and Kennedy shared a Quonset hut on Tulagi, where the two young men cemented their friendship.

After the war, Fay returned to San Francisco, where he became executive vice president of the family business. On October 5, 1946, he married Anita Marcus of Mill Valley, California. They had 3 children: Katherine, Paul, and Sally. Fay stayed in touch with Kennedy and the extended Kennedy family. He campaigned for John Kennedy during his first race for Congress, in 1946, and in his subsequent campaigns for the Senate and the White House. He was an usher at his friend's wedding to Jacqueline Bouvier in September 1953. Shortly after Kennedy was elected president in 1960, he offered his old friend the job of Under Secretary of the Navy, a position Fay held until 1965. After leaving the Pentagon, Mr. Fay helped reconstitute his family business into a financial consulting and business venture enterprise. He also was a founding partner of William Hutchinson & Co., an investment brokerage firm. He was a director of Vestaur Securities and First American Financial, and was a Trustee of the Naval War College Foundation and of Mount St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth of San Francisco. In 1966, he wrote the best-seller The Pleasure of His Company about Kennedy.

Fay died on September 23, 2009.


New York Times, Washington Post, The Pleasure of His Company