Celebrated policymaker dead at 88

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Celebrated policymaker dead at 88
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By Derrick Perkins (Courtesy photo)

David M. Abshire, whose resume included co-founding a major think tank, serving as U.S. ambassador to NATO and repeatedly assisting former President Ronald Reagan, died Friday at age 88.

Though a longtime Alexandria resident, Abshire is best remembered for his work in Washington, where many recall him as a moderate focused on fostering bipartisanship. A West Point graduate and Korean War veteran, Abshire later turned his attention to public policy.

In 1962, he helped found the Center for Strategic and International Studies with Adm. Arleigh Burke. Abshire remained intimately connected to the organization until his death last week.

“[Abshire] practically invented the modern think tank by establishing [the center] back in 1962,” said John Hamre, the organization’s president and CEO. “Dave sought to harness the intellectual energies of the university to the practical policy problems of governing. He invented a dynamic model that exists to this day. It is a lasting legacy of a great man.”

But outside of policy wonks and those in the think tank circles, most will remember Abshire for his repeated appearances in Reagan’s administration. Abshire’s first role was overseeing Reagan’s national security team during his transition to the presidency. A few years later, he was tasked with representing U.S. interests in NATO.

His most famous role, though, came during the Iran-Contra scandal. Named the president’s special counsel, Abshire coordinated with congressional committees and others investigating the funneling of money made by an arms deal with Iran to help Nicaragua fight Marxists.

Abshire died in his Alexandria nursing home, according to multiple media accounts, of complications stemming from pulmonary fibrosis.

Also a noted author and editor, Abshire is survived by his wife Carolyn Sample Abshire and five children — Lupton Abshire, Anna Bowman, Mary Lee Jensvold, Phyliss d’Hoop and Carolyn Hall — as well as 11 grandchildren.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 228 S. Pitt St. will hold a liturgy of celebration in Abshire’s memory at 11 a.m. November 14. All are invited to attend a reception in Norton Hall following the service.

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