Jack T. Kline was the 24th Director of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, serving from Nov. 1, 1974 to May 31, 1979. Kline began his musical instruction on the clarinet in ninth grade and joined the Barret Junior High School Band in Louisville, Ky. Before the year’s end, Kline was appointed principal clarinet, a position he also held while attending Dupont Manual High School.
Following graduation from high school in 1939, Kline attended the music school at the University of Louisville. He served as principal clarinet in the university band and, during his senior year, was the organization’s assistant conductor.
Kline’s higher education was interrupted by World War II. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and became a member of the 79th Infantry Division Band, experiencing combat in both France and Germany. Returning to Louisville following his Army service, Kline continued his education. During this time he also performed for three years with the Louisville Philharmonic Orchestra and worked with professional dance bands. He received his bachelor’s degree in music education with an instrumental emphasis on the clarinet and saxophone. Kline was later named the first distinguished alumni from the University of Louisville.
Kline joined the Marine Band in May 1947 as a clarinetist, and performed on the bass clarinet and saxophone. He also contributed many arrangements and symphonic band transcriptions to the Marine Band music library. In 1968, he received his officer’s commission and was appointed Assistant Director of the United States Marine Band. He was appointed Director Nov. 1, 1974, becoming the 24th Director in the history of “The President’s Own.”
As Director of the United States Marine Band, Kline served as musical advisor to the White House and conducted the Marine Band at numerous White House and State functions. During his career with the Marine Band, he performed before every president from Harry Truman to Jimmy Carter.
Kline’s personal decorations and awards included the American Area Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Medal with four stars, World War II Victory Medal, and the Legion of Merit. At the time of his death, Kline was the only Marine entitled to war the French Fouragere, won during service with the 79th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army during World War II. He was a member of the prestigious American Bandmasters Association, and also was a member of the Gridiron Club, the Alfalfa Club, and the Military Order of the Carabao.
Kline retired as a lieutenant colonel on May 31, 1979, passing the baton to then-Major John R. Bourgeois. In retirement, Kline continued his musical activities, serving as guest conductor with a select band of high school musicians on a European tour and playing the clarinet with the National Concert Band of America, an organization comprised of former service band musicians.