Public schools in Washington, D.C., school of Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C., Washington and Lee University and University of Virginia Law School.
Law clerk to Honorary E. Barrett Prettyman United States Court Appeals (District of Columbia circuit), 1953-1954. Special assistant to United States attorney United States Department Justice, 1956-1957, assistant United States attorney (District of Columbia district), 1957-1960. Partner Hogan & Hartson LLP, 1960-1968.
Owner, operator Atoka Cattle Farm, 1961—1994. Under secretary Department Navy, United States Department Defense, Washington, 1969-1972, secretary, 1972-1974. Administrator American Revolution Bicentennial Administration, 1974-1976.
United States Senator from Virginia, 1979—2009. Chairman United States Senate Rules & Administration Committee, 1995—1999, United States Senate Armed Services Committee, 1999—2001, 2001, 2003—2007. Partner Hogan & Hartson LLP, since 2009.
Republican to secretary defense, Law of the Sea Talks, 1969-1973, principal United States negotiator & signatory, Incidents at Sea Executive Agreement, 1970-1972, executive branch representative, American Revolution BiCentennial Administration, 1974-1976, United States delegate to 12th Special Session of United Nations General Assembly, 1982, observer, Geneva Arms Control Talks, 1985.
Served with United States Naval Reserve, 1944-1946. United States Marine Corps, 1951-1952. United States Marine Corps Reserve, 1952-1964.
Member District of Columbia Bar Association, American Legion, Veterans Foreign Wars (Virginia chapter).
Married Catherine Conover Mellon, August 7, 1957 (divorced 1973) children: Mary Conover, Virginia Stuart, John William IV. Married Elizabeth Taylor, December 4, 1976 (divorced November 7, 1982). Married Jeanne Vander Myde, December 15, 2003.