Former spokesman for U.S. President Ronald Reagan dies

by Reuters
Saturday, 11 January 2014 01:14 GMT

(Adds time in White House, background, descendants)

Jan 10 (Reuters) - A former spokesman for U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who took over from James Brady in 1981 after the then-press-secretary was wounded in an assassination attempt against the president, died on Friday in Mississippi, a funeral home owner said.

Larry Speakes, who had Alzheimer's disease, died in his sleep at his home in Cleveland, Mississippi, said Kenny Williams, owner of the Cleveland Funeral Home. He was 74.

Speakes joined the Reagan administration in 1981 as deputy press secretary after previously serving as vice president of public relations firm Hill and Knowlton. He took over from Brady as acting press secretary after Brady was wounded later that year, and held the position until 1987.

He conducted some 2,000 daily press briefings, dealing with issues from the Iran-Contra scandal to the investigation into the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and Cold War relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.

During President Richard Nixon's final days in the White House, Speakes served as press secretary to the special counsel to the president in the Watergate hearings.

After Nixon resigned, Speakes was assistant press secretary to President Gerald Ford.

He received the Presidential Citizens Medal in 1987.

Born in Cleveland, Mississippi, Speakes attended the University of Mississippi and went on to a career in newspapers, serving from 1966 to 1968 as general manager and editor for Progress Publishers of Leland, Mississippi, which published weekly newspapers.

Speakes was buried on Friday at North Cleveland Cemetery, Williams said. He is survived by a daughter, Sandy Speakes Huerta, and sons Scott and Jeremy Speakes, six grandchildren and one great grandchild. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Ken Wills)

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