Larry Speakes, 74, who was thrust into the White House press secretary’s job after former President Reagan and his spokesman Jim Brady were shot in 1981, died Friday and, in an unusual move, was buried the very same day.
Speakes had a long bout with Alzheimer’s disease and died in Cleveland, Miss., where he was born.
A spokesman for the Cleveland Funeral Home said he died at about 3 a.m. and his family, in Cleveland, had made prearrangements for a swift burial.
Speakes served for six years in the White House and was well-liked by staff and many reporters, but often tussled during his 2,000 briefings with reporters who believed he was stingy with information.
He traveled a well-worn path to the White House. Speakes started as a newspaper reporter, then came to Washington in 1968 to be press secretary for former Sen. James O. Eastland until 1974.
Near the end of the Nixon presidency, he was press secretary to the White House special counsel during the Watergate hearings. Afterward, he worked for former President Gerald Ford.
During Ford’s re-election campaign, he was assigned to help vice presidential candidate Bob Dole. After they lost, he worked for the PR firm Hill and Knowlton.
Once Reagan won four years later, Speakes worked for the transition team and was named Brady’s deputy. He served as acting press secretary after Brady was shot, but kept on as press secretary.
Speakes subsequently worked for Merrill Lynch, Northern Telecom and the U.S. Postal Service.Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.