Obituary: Professor Richard Neustadt

Richard Neustadt, the husband of the Catholic Baroness Shirley Williams, Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords, died on 31 October 2003. He was 84. He was a renowned US presidential adviser, scholar and historian.

A former adviser to Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Lyndon B Johnson, and Clinton, Neustadt, spent much of his time in England since retiring from Harvard in 1989.

Richard Elliott Neustadt was born in June 1919 in Philadelphia, the great-grandson of a liberal Czech journalist who fled Bohemia in 1848, and the son of a Social Security Board official who became an adviser to Presidents Woodrow Wilson and F D Roosevelt.

Young Richard's mother, a social worker, died when he was four, and he grew up in San Francisco and Washington, where his father was posted. "All sorts of interesting people poured through the family living room," he recalled in an interview in 1965, "so it was almost natural that at 17 I was already interested in the government, the Democratic Party, the Presidency."

He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of California, Berkeley, and his master's degree at Harvard before serving in the Navy as a Seabee supply officer in the Aleutians during World War II. After the war, Neustadt spent four years working at the Bureau of the Budget in Washington as he pursued doctoral studies at Harvard. In 1950 he began three years as Truman's policy and administrative adviser. After Truman left office, Neustadt, who obtained his doctorate in 1951, began his academic career at Columbia.

In 1965, he was selected as associate dean of the newly named John Fitzgerald Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He became the first director of its Institute of Politics a year later. Current Kennedy School Dean Joseph Nye said that Neustadt "was certainly one of our most valuable emeritus professors. He provided students with an understanding of the American presidency, greater than any other faculty member could have, from his direct experience and from his books." He wrote many books on the US presidency, including ''Presidential Power: The Politics of Leadership,'' which offered his insight into government decision-making. Neustadt also wrote ''Preparing to be President,'' a compilation of memos he penned for John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton at their request to help their transitions into the presidency. Neustadt held numerous academic posts and honours, including a year at Nuffield College, Oxford (1961-62); Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the Woodrow Wilson Award from the American Political Science Association and, last year, the inaugural prize for portrayal of the Presidency from the Smithsonian Institution.

Neustadt's first wife of 40 years, the former Bertha Cummings, died in 1984. They had two children, Richard and Elizabeth. He met Shirley Williams when she was a Home Office minister, and he and his wife became friends with her. After Neustadt was widowed, he proposed in Cape Cod in 1986. "I was so bowled over I couldn't say anything for at least six weeks," Shirley Williams later said, though she finally acquiesced and they were married in a Catholic ceremony in 1987. The couple divided their time between England and Cape Cod.

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