Jack T. Kline, 65, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who served from 1974 to 1979 as the director of the United States Marine Band, died of cancer Jan. 18 at Bethesda Naval Hospital. He lived in Fort Washington.
Lt. Col. Kline began his Marine Band career as a clarinetist shortly after he enlisted in the Corps in 1947. He received his commission and was named assistant band director in 1968. He held that post until becoming the 21st man to hold the post of band director in November 1974. He retired from the directorship and active duty in 1979.
As a bass clarinetist, saxophonist and band director, he performed before every president from Harry S Truman through Jimmy Carter. "It's been a marvelous experience, and I have tremendous respect for all of them -- many of whom I didn't vote for," he told a Navy Times reporter in 1979.
He remembered Truman fondly. "Things were very informal in those days, and we were treated royally. President Truman's daughter Margaret always came around to see if we were being taken care of. She always thanked us personally at the end of the evening and then would lead us down the stairs to a little room where we had a smorgasbord," he told the Navy Times.
Of his last president, Jimmy Carter, he told the publication, "When he was president-elect, my friends asked if I was ready to play some country music. And I was a little bit worried about that because we don't have any units ready for that. The first thing that President Carter showed us is that he likes serious, classical music."
The Marine Band, famed as "The President's Own," and known for its legendary former conductor, John Philip Sousa, was not large. During Lt. Col. Kline's directorship, it had 138 musicians and was the smallest of the service bands, making up in elan what it lacked in numbers.
A bastion of honorable tradition, the band had a retention rate of 91 percent during Lt. Col. Kline's directorship. Yet it also reflected changes in society. Shortly before Lt. Col. Kline became director, it began accepting women in its ranks. Despite initial reservations concerning that innovation, Lt. Col. Kline became a champion of the move. By the end of his tour, four women were principal players -- or "first chair" -- in sections.
In addition to playing and conducting, Lt. Col. Kline contributed arrangements and symphonic band transcriptions to the band library. His military decorations included the Legion of Merit and the Navy Commendation Medal.
Lt. Col. Kline was born in Appleton, Wis., and reared in Louisville. He earned a music degree at the University of Louisville. He was a World War II combat veteran, serving with the 79th Infantry Division in Europe. Before joining the Marine Corps, he played with the Louisville Symphonic Orchestra.
In retirement, he had been a guest conductor, sang in church choirs, and transcribed band music. He was a member of the American Bandmasters Association and the Alfalfa Club and had been a director of both the Military Order of the Carabao and the Gridiron Club.
Survivors include his wife, the former Martha Ann Barbee of Fort Washington; a son, John Allen Kline of Springfield; a daughter, Terrill Ann Kline of Washington; a brother, Philip Kearney Kline of Overland Park, Kan.; a sister, Doris Kline Thomas of Greencastle, Pa., and a grandchild.