Earl Winfield Spencer Jr.

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Earl Winfield Spencer Jr.
Spencer 2.jpg
Born(1888-09-20)September 20, 1888
Kinsley, Kansas, U.S.
DiedMay 29, 1950(1950-05-29) (aged 61)
Coronado, California, U.S.
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service1910–1939
RankUS-O5 insignia.svg Commander
Commands heldNaval Air Station San Diego
(m. 1916; div. 1927)
Mariam J. Maze
(m. 1928; div. 1936)
Norma Reese Johnson
(m. 1937; div. 1942)
Lillian Phillips
(m. after 1941)
Earl Winfield Spencer Jr. (1920)

Earl Winfield Spencer Jr. (September 20, 1888 – May 29, 1950) was a pioneering U.S. Navy pilot who served as the first commanding officer of Naval Air Station San Diego. He was the first husband of Wallis Simpson, who later went on to marry Edward VIII.

Early life and military career[edit]

Known as Win, he was born in Kinsley, Kansas, son of Earl Winfield Spencer Sr., a socially prominent Chicago stockbroker,[1] and the former Agnes Lucy Hughes of Jersey. He attended Racine College in Racine, Wisconsin.[2] He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1910 and in 1917 was sent to San Diego with instructions to set up a permanent naval air station, which was to be used for training exercises, and he became its first commanding officer.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Spencer was married five times.[citation needed] Four of his wives were:

  • Norma Reese Johnson (1891–1944),[11] the widow of Homer Sturtevant Johnson, a Detroit manufacturer who died in 1928, and a daughter of Carl Reese, of Detroit, Michigan. Spencer and Johnson were married in Los Angeles, California, on July 4, 1937. By this marriage he had two stepdaughters: Betty L. Johnson, an actress and songwriter (married Balie Peyton Legare Jr. (1908–1984), a jazz musician, whom she divorced in 1942) and Kathryne Johnson (born circa 1912, married Dell Myron Wade Jr). The Spencers' wedding was a double wedding with Betty and Peyton Legare, whose wedding in February 1942 in Tijuana, Mexico, was not valid under California law and needed to be resolemnized.[12][13] The couple separated on February 9, 1940, and were divorced later that year in Santa Monica, California. Both parties charged cruelty, and Norma declared that her husband was plagued by what The New York Times's announcement of their acrimonious divorce delicately called "habitual intemperance." Time magazine reported, "During a stormy session of accusations and counteraccusations Navyman Spencer, charged with cruelty and habitual intemperance, testified that his weekly liquor bill was only about $10, that his wife 'drank as much of it as I did.'"[14]
  • Lillian Phillips (1892–1981),[15] daughter of Robert A. and Ella Burgess Phillips, whom he married October 2, 1941.[16]

Later life[edit]

Commander Spencer died in Coronado, California. He is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California, with his wife Lillian.[17]

In art, screen portrayals, and literature[edit]

He was portrayed by actor Ryan Hayward in W.E., the 2011 British romantic drama film about the love of Wallis and King Edward VIII co-written and directed by Madonna.[18]


  1. ^ Sebba, Anne (2013), That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, New York City: St. Martin's Press, ISBN 978-1250022189
  2. ^ Lundy, Darryl. "p10074.htm". The Peerage.[unreliable source]
  3. ^ Ralph S. Cooper, D.V.M. "Earl W. Spencer, Jr". Earlyaviators.com. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  4. ^ Spelling of wife's first name per the 1930 United States Federal Census for San Diego, California, accessed on ancestry.com on December 23, 2011. Mariam's maiden name, former husband's name, et cetera, were determined through research on ancestry.com, through censuses and marriage records, also accessed on ancestry.com.
  5. ^ CORRECTION of FOOTNOTE 3 – The MIRIAM JEAN CARO daughter of Simon and Bertha Abrahamson Caro was born June 29, 1893 in Roseburg, Douglas Co., OR, and DIED UNMARRIED on June 20, 1982 in San Francisco, San Francisco Co., CA. 1. Ancestry.com [database on-line], 1940 U. S. Federal Census, (Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012), Census Place: San Francisco, San Francisco, California; Roll: T627_318; Page: 64B; Enumeration District: 38-502. 2. Ancestry.com [database on-line], Oregon, Select Births and Christenings, 1868–1929, (Prove, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2000), Name: Miriam Jean Caro, Gender: Female, Birth Date: 29 Jun 1894, Birth Place: Roseburg, Doulas, Oregon, Father: Simon Caro, Mother: Bertha Abrahamson Caro, FHL Film Number: 2259056. 3. Ancestry.com [database on-line], California Death Index, 1940–1997, (Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2000), Name: Miriam J Caro, Social Security #: 564589069, Gender: Female, Birth Date: 29 Jun 1893, Birth Place: Oregon, Death Date: 20 Jun 1982, Death Place: San Francisco, Mother's Maiden Name: Abrahamson. 4. Ancestry.com [database on-line], U.S. Social Security Death Index, (Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011), "Name: Miriam Caro, SSN: 564-58-9069, Last Residence: 94109 San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA, BORN: 29 Jun 1894, Died: Jun 1982, State (Year) SSN issued: California (1959).".
  6. ^ Arlington National Cemetery – Miriam J. Raford
  7. ^ 1900 U.S. Census – Census Place: Portland Ward 6, Multnomah, Oregon; Roll: 1350; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 0063; FHL microfilm: 1241350
  8. ^ Higham, Charles (2005). Mrs Simpson. Pan Books. pp. 50–51. ISBN 0-330-42678-8.
  9. ^ "Service Social News", Army and Navy Journal, September 4, 1943, columns 3 and 4.
  10. ^ Arlington National Cemetery – Arthur W. Radford
  11. ^ Find a Grave – Norma Reese Johnson
  12. ^ "Spencer To Be In Double Wedding", Ogden (Utah) Standard Examiner, June 29, 1937, page 6A, column 6.
  13. ^ The Legares' son, Balie Peyton Legare 3d (1948–1970), was a heroin dealer who "fell to his death ... when a bedsheet-rope snapped as he lowered himself from the roof of the seven-story San Francisco County Jail". Information cited in "Fall Kills Inmate", Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA), April 30, 1970.
  14. ^ "Milestones, Aug. 5, 1940". Time. August 5, 1940. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  15. ^ Find a Grave – Lillian Phillips Spencer
  16. ^ Ancestry.com – 1900 United States Federal Census: Census Place: Neville, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1370; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0456; FHL microfilm: 1241370
  17. ^ Find a Grave-Earl Winfield Spencer
  18. ^ W.E. (2011) – Full cast and crew