Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Harry C. Mcpherson Jr. Aug. 22, 1929 - Feb. 16, 2012 Adviser, Speechwriter for Lyndon Johnson, and Later a Lobbyist

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Harry C. Mcpherson Jr. Aug. 22, 1929 - Feb. 16, 2012 Adviser, Speechwriter for Lyndon Johnson, and Later a Lobbyist

Article excerpt

Harry C. McPherson Jr., who served as special counsel and chief speechwriter for President Lyndon Johnson from 1966 to '69 and was a valued adviser to the president on civil rights, the Vietnam War and other policy issues, has died. He was 82.

Mr. McPherson, who later became a prominent Washington lawyer and lobbyist, died Feb. 16 of complications of cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md., said Hedrick Smith, a family friend.

"Harry McPherson was a 'can do' man with sound judgment and treasured loyalty who could be counted on by generations of Johnsons," Luci Baines Johnson, the president's youngest daughter, said in a statement.

The Texas-born Mr. McPherson was a recent graduate of the University of Texas School of Law when he drove his old Buick to Washington in 1956 to be assistant general counsel for the Democratic Policy Committee chaired by Johnson, a fellow Texan who was then the Senate majority leader.

Mr. McPherson, who served as the committee's general counsel from 1961 to '63, was deputy undersecretary of the Army for International Affairs and assistant secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs before moving over to the White House as understudy to White House special counsel Lee White in 1965.

A year later, Mr. McPherson became special counsel to the president.

Beginning that summer, he "crafted all of the president's major addresses," Robert Dallek wrote in his 1998 Johnson biography "Flawed Giant."

"The president valued his advice," said Mark Updegrove, director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum, who interviewed Mr. McPherson for his book "Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency," to be published in March.

"When you consider the turbulent times President Johnson was in the White House, that advice becomes even more important," Mr. Updegrove said. "He could speak very frankly to LBJ about the war, which was a sensitive subject."

In his 1972 book, "A Political Education: A Washington Memoir," Mr. McPherson vividly described the extent to which the Vietnam War occupied the Johnson White House. …

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