WASHINGTON — Frank C. Carlucci III, who began his wide-ranging government career as a diplomat and finished as secretary of defense under President Ronald Reagan, has died at age 87.

Carlucci died Sunday at home in McLean, Virginia, of complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to his wife, Marcia Myers Carlucci.

“About two years ago he wrote a small book to his grandchildren,” she told The Associated Press on Monday. “It basically was saying that mortality catches up with everyone, and you start thinking about your legacy. And he thought of his children and his grandchildren as his greatest legacy.”

Current Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called Carlucci “a transformative leader.”

In a statement released Monday night, Mattis said, “He changed the way the Department worked with Congress, and managed critical defense issues, such as procuring major weapon systems, and rebalancing military priorities and resources under dynamic and challenging geopolitical circumstances.”

Carlucci was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He served two years as a Navy officer after graduating in 1952 from Princeton University, where he was a wrestling teammate with Donald H. Rumsfeld, who would later serve twice as defense secretary. Carlucci studied at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration and later joined the State Department as a foreign service officer. His assignments took him to Africa and South America over a 12-year period.

He left the State Department in 1969 to become assistant director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, where he became director in 1970. He later served in the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

Carlucci served as deputy director of the CIA under President Jimmy Carter from 1978 to 1981.

An official Pentagon biography of Carlucci said he was the first incumbent secretary of defense to visit the Soviet Union. He served at the Pentagon from 1981 to 1983 as the deputy secretary under Caspar Weinberger, and returned to the Pentagon as defense secretary in November 1987 after Weinberger resigned. He served until January 1989.

In between his stints at the Pentagon, Carlucci in the mid-1980s was chairman and chief executive officer of Sears World Trade Inc., and then moved to the White House to serve as Reagan’s national security adviser.

During his Pentagon tenure Carlucci faced multiple crises in the Persian Gulf. In 1988, U.S. Navy ships destroyed two Iranian oil platforms in retaliation for damage to the USS Samuel B. Roberts from an Iranian mine in the Gulf. Later that year, the USS Vincennes mistakenly shot down a civilian Iranian airliner over the Gulf, killing 290 people.

After leaving the Pentagon, Carlucci joined the Carlyle Group, a Washington investment group, as vice president and managing director. He later became chairman.

His wife, Marcia, said he believed strongly in the Bible verse from Luke 12:48, which she recited as, “For unto whom so ever much is given, of him shall be much required.”

“That’s how he lived his life,” she said.

Associated Press writer Ben Finley contributed from Norfolk, Virginia.

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