Charles E. McDowell, 89, a retired Navy rear admiral who served as the judge advocate general of the Navy from 1978 until his military retirement in 1980, died Nov. 25 at the Paul Spring assisted living community in Alexandria. He had congestive heart failure.

The death was confirmed by a granddaughter, Kristi Maiselman.

Adm. McDowell, an Alexandria resident, did legal work for the Navy for nearly 30 years. Earlier in his career, he was a staff legal officer of the Pacific Fleet in Honolulu and a staff judge advocate of the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. At the war college, he headed the international law division.

From 1966 to 1968, Adm. McDowell was a head legal officer of the U.S. 7th Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan.

After his military retirement, he operated a private law practice in Woodbridge until 1997.

Charles Eager McDowell was a native of Manchester, N.H. He was a 1947 graduate of Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., and a 1950 graduate of the University of Virginia law school, where he was valedictorian, his family said.

During World War II, he led an Army rifle platoon in Europe. He was a lawyer for Shell Oil before joining the Navy in 1951.

His military decorations included the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. In 2010, he was inducted into the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Ga.

He was a member of Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Fairfax County, where he was head of the kitchen committee. He volunteered at the Route One Community Kitchen in Fairfax County.

Survivors include his wife of 65 years, Carolyn “Candy” Gibbons McDowell of Alexandria; two daughters, Robin Mathews of Alexandria and Patricia “Mimi” VanPoole of Arlington County; two grandchildren; and two great-grandsons.

— Megan McDonough