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Pastimes : Ronald Reagan 1911-2004

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From: Glenn Petersen3/28/2006 7:32:46 AM
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Lyn Nofziger, 81, Irreverent Adviser to Reagan, Is Dead

Published: March 28, 2006

LOS ANGELES, March 27 — Lyn Nofziger, the cigar-chomping former newspaperman who served as spokesman and strategist for Ronald Reagan in Sacramento and Washington, died of cancer on Monday at his home in Falls Church, Va. He was 81.

Nancy Reagan, the former first lady, said: "Lyn was with us from the gubernatorial campaign in 1965 through the early White House days, and Ronnie valued his advice — and good humor — as much as anyone's. I spoke with him just days ago and even though he knew the end was near, Lyn was hopeful and still in good spirits."

Mr. Nofziger was at the hospital with Reagan after he was shot in March 1981 and relayed to the press the president's memorable, if perhaps apocryphal, line to Mrs. Reagan at the hospital: "Honey, I forgot to duck."

Mr. Nofziger was a reporter in the Washington bureau of the Copley newspaper chain when he was recruited to serve as the spokesman for Reagan's first campaign for governor of California in 1966.

Stuart Spencer, who managed that campaign and Reagan's later campaigns for the White House, recalled Mr. Nofziger as profane, disheveled and always quick with a quip. Mr. Spencer said he still had the Mickey Mouse tie Mr. Nofziger gave him years ago. The difference between them, Mr. Spencer said, was that Mr. Nofziger regularly wore his.

Mr. Nofziger frequently expressed his disdain for Washington and for politics, but he kept returning. He put up a cynical facade that endeared him to the reporters he dealt with, but he remained devoted to Reagan, even though he was never part of the president's innermost circle.

Ms. Dahmen, a great-niece of Mr. Nofziger, told The Associated Press on Monday: "He transcended parties; he was loved on both sides of the aisle. You could love him or hate him, but everybody respected him."

Despite his service in the Reagan and Nixon White Houses, Mr. Nofziger was not a doctrinaire conservative. He could, however, take the gloves off when he felt it necessary to serve the boss, either as a communications aide to Richard M. Nixon or as a political director for Reagan.

He worked under Reagan to replace Democrats in the federal bureaucracy with loyal Republicans. John Dean, Nixon's White House counsel, wrote that Mr. Nofziger had helped compile the Nixon White House's "enemies list."

Kenneth L. Khachigian, who worked with Mr. Nofziger in the Nixon White House and remained close to him afterward, said Mr. Nofziger had enlivened meetings, sometimes to the president's displeasure. "He could be infuriating because he never seemed to take things seriously," Mr. Khachigian said. "But on the other hand, he was utterly loyal and devoted to Reagan."

Like several former Reaganites, Mr. Nofziger opened a lobbying practice in Washington after leaving the White House. In 1988, he was convicted of illegally lobbying for two defense contractors and a labor union. Mr. Nofziger dismissed the charges as trivial and told the judge he felt no remorse because he did not believe he was guilty.

A year later a federal appeals court threw out the conviction, saying prosecutors had failed to show he had knowingly committed a crime.

Franklyn Nofziger was a native Californian, born in Bakersfield on June 8, 1924, and a self-described conservative by the time he entered college. He served in the Army and attended San Jose State College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in journalism. He worked in journalism for 16 years as a reporter and editor, and took his manual typewriter with him to the White House even after electric typewriters and then computers rendered it obsolete.

In a 2003 interview with the University of Virginia, as part of its presidential oral history project, Mr. Nofziger conceded that he never would have imagined going into politics. But in 1966, he took a position as press secretary for Reagan's campaign for governor. He served as the governor's director of communications for nearly two years.

Mr. Nofziger's friends said he could be candid to a fault, which sometimes strained his relations with Mr. and Mrs. Reagan. In 1991, when the president dismissed three former close aides, including former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, from the board of the Reagan Presidential Library, Mr. Nofziger wrote a scathing op-ed article for The Washington Post. He said Mr. Reagan had broken his heart by turning his back on friends.

"Yes, I know you were a long way from being a perfect president," Mr. Nofziger wrote. "I thought that sometimes you listened to and took bad advice. I thought that toward the end you were paying too much attention to what history might think of you — a mistake most presidents make."

He went on, "But still, while on a scale of 1 to 10 you were more nearly a 7 than a 10, you remained my hero because it's hard to visualize anybody else scoring more than a 5 — at least on my scale. But today, Mr. President, and I weep because of it, you are no longer my hero."

He said Mr. Reagan had forgotten old loyalties and walked away from old friends. "You have let Nancy and the rich and beautiful people with whom she has surrounded herself and you force off the board of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library three of the most dedicated and selfless Reaganites there are."

Mr. Nofziger wrote four western novels and a political autobiography, "Nofziger."

But those who know him remember not his serious writings but his puns and quips and bits of doggerel. Among them is a limerick that he penned after the doomed nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court last year, which appears on his Web site,

Conservatives are fearful that Harriet

Will be George Bush's Iscariot.

They have little doubt

That she'd sell them out

For a ride in a liberal's chariot.

Mr. Nofziger is survived by his wife, Bonnie, their daughter Glenda and two grandchildren. Another daughter died in 1989.

Carolyn Marshall contributed reporting from San Francisco for this article.
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