updated 3/5/2007 7:32:23 PM ET 2007-03-06T00:32:23

William Robert Anderson, captain of the USS Nautilus on its historic under-the-ice trips to the North Pole and a former U.S. congressman, has died. He was 85.

Anderson died Feb. 25 in Leesburg, Va., following a brief illness, his family said.

The Bakerville, Tenn., native graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1942 and took command of the Nautilus in 1957, when the submarine cruised to within 180 miles of the North Pole.

The next year Anderson and his crew of 115 made the first voyage from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean by passing under the ice of the North Pole.

After retiring from the Navy, Anderson served as a consultant to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, helping to create the Peace Corps. In 1964, he was elected to his first of four terms representing the sixth district of Tennessee in Congress.

Anderson also was a businessman. In 1973, he became chairman of the board of directors of Digital Management Corp. He also served as director for Atlantic Union before founding data management firm Public Management Corp. with his wife.

"Many say, 'He was my hero,'" Patricia Anderson told The Day of New London, Conn., of her husband.

'A gentleman extraordinaire'
Al Charette of Mystic, Conn., a crewman who served with Anderson, said the captain kept in touch with most of his crew through the years.

"He was the kind of guy you would follow anywhere," Charette said, calling him "an officer and a gentleman extraordinaire."

The survivors of the transit to the North Pole will gather in Connecticut on Aug. 3, 2008, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the trip, which scientists said gathered more oceanographic information about the Arctic than had been compiled by all previous expeditions.

Anderson wrote about the trip for the Saturday Evening Post and used the proceeds to buy an engraved, silver mint-julep cup for every crew member, Charette recalled.

"He's kept in touch with most of the crew all these years and has always looked out for us," Charette said.

A funeral service and burial is planned for March 16 at Arlington National Cemetery, according to Loudoun Funeral Chapels.

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