Nofziger's Calming Influence

Key Reagan adviser and longtime conservative leader Franklyn “Lyn” Nofziger died of cancer yesterday at the age of 81.

I first met Lyn Nofziger when he was the Washington correspondent for the Copley newspapers; I was the young chairman of the National College Republicans. If one ever had the tendency to take oneself too seriously, Lyn Nofziger quickly disabused you of that notion. He was a real character who was aptly described in one obituary as a “rumpled and irreverent conservative.”

Lyn left the media to go to work for Ronald Reagan as his press secretary and was with Reagan through his campaigns for the presidency and the first Reagan term in the White House. He was part of Reagan’s inner circle and was a voice for the conservative supporters of the President.

When I was on the Reagan transition team after the 1980 election and prior to the President being sworn into office, there was a lot of conservative unhappiness as Nixon/Ford retreads and the Bush/Baker group were dominating the selection process of appointees to the Reagan Administration. Lyn Nofgizer rejoined the Reagan transition team, and almost overnight conservatives began to be better represented. He successfully fought to make sure that conservatives would be appointed to key posts in the Reagan Administration, and a lot of conservatives owe their appointments to Lyn Nofgizer’s tenacious work behind the scenes.

I was on the White House counsel’s staff awaiting confirmation as director of action, an independent federal agency, when we got word that the President had been shot. Understandably, there was a mad scramble at the White House and the Executive Office Building as officials tried to figure out what to do, not knowing whether the President was going to make it.

Some handled that crisis in a calm and collected fashion. Others did not do so well. Al Haig and the Press Secretary Larry Speakes come to mind as two individuals who weren’t up to the task required of them. When Speakes faltered in handling the media, Lyn Nofziger came to his rescue by becoming the spokesman for the administration. His unflappability and calming influence made a huge difference in those difficult moments as the American people waited anxiously for word on the President’s condition.

Lyn was loyal to his President, to his friends, to his country, and to the conservative philosophy in which he so deeply believed. He will be sorely missed by those whose lives he touched. May his soul rest in peace.

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