Rear Admiral Albert Jethro "A.J." Chegwidden, JAGC, USN (Ret.), is a fictional character played by John M. Jackson on the TV series JAG.
Admiral Chegwidden was the Judge Advocate General of the Navy from around March 1996 until his retirement in May 2004. The "Old Man" may be the Navy's top uniformed lawyer, but he is a hands-on manager, never forgetting his roots as a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War.
Jackson reprised his role as A.J. Chegwidden in the NCIS season 10 finale, "Damned If You Do", after a nine-year absence and again in the NCIS: Los Angeles season 8 episode, "Payback".
The family background of Chegwidden himself has never been revealed (although it might be assumed that Chegwidden, due to the Texan English spoken by actor John M. Jackson, hails from that region as well). At age 24, apparently while stationed in Italy, he married Marcella (played by Barbara Carrera), the daughter of the Mayor of Naples, Italy. In 1972 their daughter, Francesca, was born. Sometime in the 1970s, they divorced and his ex-wife received custody of Francesca. Marcella remarried, to an Italian man named Vittorio Parreti, who was later murdered. Francesca ran into problems when she fell in love with mafia member Luciano Antinori.
Chegwidden has had other romances throughout the years (with Judge Laura Delaney and Dr. Sydney Walden) but nothing really came from them. Judge Delaney was killed after stepping on a landmine placed by an old enemy on his porch. His last and longest romance in the series was with Meredith Cavanaugh. They met when she went to JAG headquarters to meet with Lt Col. MacKenzie, but he thought she was another attempt at matchmaking from his subordinates. He later learned that Col. MacKenzie wanted to speak with Meredith about a course she wanted her "little sister" Chloe to attend and he apologized. Chegwidden and Meredith bonded over their common interest for Shakespeare. Although the Admiral and Meredith got engaged near the end of Season 9, he found out she was cheating on him in Season 9 and ended their engagement on the spot.
Lt. Bud Roberts and his wife Harriet Sims named their first son A.J. after him. During episodes where he is stuck at home, he is often kept company by a German shepherd named "Damnmit" (the only name the dog would respond to), whom he encountered when he accidentally ejected from an F-14 piloted by Commander Rabb into a blizzard-covered forest in Virginia.
Chegwidden was a talented pitcher on his high school baseball team. The Cleveland Indians drafted him, but instead he chose to accept an appointment to the United States Naval Academy. After graduating from the Academy, he went on to become a Navy SEAL, and while assigned to SEAL Team 2, Chegwidden served with valor and distinction in the Vietnam War.
When the war ended, he transferred over to surface warfare, serving aboard destroyers. Chegwidden rose to command an Arleigh Burke class destroyer; a cased model of one graces the mantel of his office fireplace. During the 1980s, his career took yet another turn as he left Surface Warfare and went to law school. As a member of the Navy's JAG Corps, he rose quickly through the ranks, serving as the head of the JAG office in the U.S. Pacific Fleet before being appointed Judge Advocate General of the Navy in 1996. Chegwidden succeeded Rear Admiral Al Brovo, USN, played by Kevin Dunn, who only appeared in the pilot episode.
Chegwidden stated in a Maryland court case, while defending Gunnery Sergeant Galindez, that he is a member of the Bar Associations of Virginia, Maryland and New York. Chegwidden retired from the Navy in May 2004. His successor as Judge Avocate General became Major General Gordon M. Cresswell, USMC, played by David Andrews.
After his retirement from the Navy in 2004, Chegwidden found employment as a senior partner in a Washington DC law firm. He reappeared in the JAG spin-off NCIS as an attorney hired by NCIS Director Leon Vance to defend Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs during an internal investigation by the DoD Office of the Inspector General and possible trial (which never came about) because Gibbs was temporarily recruited to JSOC to deal with a side investigation into the death of a Navy SEAL by a terrorist group called the Brotherhood of Doubt.
In February 2017, Chegwidden returned in the NCIS: Los Angeles Season 8 episode "Payback", which in turn marked his - or any JAG cast member's - first ever appearance in an NCIS spinoff. Chegwidden was summoned to Los Angeles by his old friend, Henrietta Lange, to assist the Office of Special Projects during the final phase of their mole hunt. Once all the moles had been revealed, Hetty asked the Admiral to stay in LA to help her deal with the legal fallout. In the episode, it is mentioned that at one point he almost tried to kill Assistant Director Owen Granger when Chegwidden was "young" and Granger was "stupid".
Chegwidden often comes across as being hard-nosed and tends to "follow the book". However, he has been known to show vulnerable moments in his life and career, and is fiercely protective of those under his command, which he considers to be "his people." Not only being the superior of Harmon Rabb, Jr. and Sarah MacKenzie, he often instinctively turned into a missing father figure—providing not only comical relief, but also a reflection on their respective personal backgrounds.
When Lt. Bud Roberts was wounded after stepping on a landmine, Chegwidden attempted to soothe the news to Bud's wife, Harriet, and seemed to be a little melodramatic while doing it. Another time he showed his softer side was when he broke the news of Harm's aircraft accident while attempting to return home in time for Mac's engagement party to Mic. When Bud and Harriet lost a stillborn child, the Admiral attempted to help both by granting an emergency leave. (Bud, however, refused to stay away longer than a week, feeling that returning to work was in his and his wife's best interests.)
Chegwidden is also known for showing a side of himself that frightens most who have seen it. In one episode, he broke the nose of Special Agent Clayton Webb for putting Harm and Mac in danger. This particular incident impressed Webb so much that he never again tried to ruffle the Admiral's feathers.
He was responsible for the death of Antinori after Antinori had kidnapped Francesca. Even though it was Francesca who pulled the trigger, the Admiral was present and made no move to stop her. He had earlier killed several of Antinori's bodyguards.
He also scared Harm on several occasions, most notably when Harm and Mic Brumby were responsible for accidentally breaking Bud's jaw in "Boomerang". After being dragged to Australia, Chegwidden yelled at both of them, threatening to horsewhip and keelhaul Harm, until he decided on a non-judicial punishment that fit the crime. He ordered Harm and Mic to confine themselves to a warehouse and did not allow them to come out until each had inflicted the same amount of punishment on the other as they had inflicted on Bud.
He even rattled a CIA "sweeper," when he realized that the rogue agent was playing mind games with him. These mind games resulted in the death of the woman he loved.
The Admiral was targeted by the father of a sailor that the Admiral put away, who later was exonerated. Unfortunately, the young sailor had died in prison. Chegwidden had to show considerable restraint to keep himself from killing the man.
On more than one occasion Chegwidden put his career on the line to back his staff or to help them when they needed it. According to Harriet Sims, the Admiral went to his boss, the Secretary of the Navy, pleading in letter, citing legal precedent, why Bud Roberts should not be passed over for promotion (Roberts was no longer qualified for sea duty). The usual result of being passed over is involuntary separation from the Navy (i.e. "forced" retirement). Bud's promotion to Lieutenant Commander was duly made and administering the oath of office was what he considered to be his last official act as Judge Advocate General.
Admiral Chegwidden would also be authorized to wear the Surface Warfare Officer badge based on his statements that he commanded a destroyer following his Vietnam service.