Raymond K. Price Jr., a cerebral and pipe-smoking speechwriter for President Richard M. Nixon who helped write the first and last words of his presidency, his inaugural speeches and his resignation speech, died Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 88 years old.
His former lawyer, Zenon B. Masnyj, said Mr Price suffered a stroke and died at Lenox Hill Hospital. He lived in Lower Manhattan.
Mr. Price was the editor of the New York Herald Tribune’s editorial page when it closed in 1966, and when he joined Nixon’s fledgling second presidential campaign the following year, he brought the genre with him. of moderate republicanism which had characterized the opinion pages of this newspaper.
His loyalty to Nixon was unwavering, although he later admitted that he had been ‘deceived’ by the President about some aspects of the Watergate cover-up at the time this happened.
A book by Mr. Price, “With Nixon” (1977), is considered one of the strongest attempts to defend the president in the Watergate affair, the break-in of the offices of the Democratic opposition by a White House burglars and burglars team. the administration’s attempts to cover up the crime.
He argued that Watergate was a political trick concocted by Democrats, that Nixon had not been guilty of any crime, and that even if he had been, his accomplishments outweighed any missteps. .
Nixon wrote in his own memoirs that he hired Mr. Price not only as a speechwriter, but as “my main idea designer.” Mr. Price has provided intellectual leadership particularly on issues relating to civil rights and improving business opportunities for blacks.
As a speechwriter, Mr. Price provided Nixon with a stream of sharp but subdued speeches, as well as touches of eloquence. “What America needs most today is what it once had, but lost: the elevator of a driving dream,” he wrote in a Nixon’s campaign speech in New Hampshire in 1968.
In an interview for this obituary in 2007, Leonard Garment, Nixon’s special advocate, said Mr. Price had “understood what the essence of Nixon is.”
“He brought a voice that was in a sense his own, translated into the president’s voice,” Garment said. He described that voice as “a mixture of the prudential type of republicanism and Nixon’s personal bite.” (Mr. Garment died in 2013.)
Nixon’s faith in Mr. Price was demonstrated after the President called for the resignation of his aides HR Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman in April 1973 and was preparing to address the nation on the matter.
According to Nixon’s account, while teaching Mr. Price how to prepare for the speech, he told him, “Ray, you are the most honest, cool and objective man I know. If you think I should resign, I am ready to do so. You won’t have to tell me. You should just put it in the next draft.
It was a surprising offer that came at a time when Nixon was “gripped by a strong sense of foreboding,” Mr. Price said in an interview with the New York Times in 1977. He said he had persuaded Nixon not to resign in 1973 arguing that Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, who would have become president if Nixon had resigned, was unable to continue Nixon’s diplomacy. (Agnew resigned in October of the same year, caught up in a corruption scandal.)
When Mr. Price in August 1974 was drafting Nixon’s resignation speech – after the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment and a recording proved that Nixon had ordered a cover-up – the President arrested him. . He told him to write a new speech saying he would fight until the constitutional impeachment process was completed.
Nixon finally changed course as congressional support evaporated. The president has never seen the second speech – that of the “fight” – according to Mr. Price. After lectures with Mr. Price the previous night and morning, the President delivered his resignation speech on August 8, 1974. As Nixon had requested, it contained “no crawling”.
Raymond Kissam Price Jr. was born May 6, 1930 in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn, to Raymond and Beth (Porter) Price, and has moved several times with his family to New York City. Her father was a stockbroker.
The family moved to Morris Plains, New Jersey when Mr. Price was a young boy. At age 7, he started a newspaper called The Weekly Hornet, printing it on a decrepit hectograph machine and recruiting his friends to deliver it. The following year, the family moved to Setauket, Long Island, where The Hornet appeared briefly before ceasing publication. Its maximum circulation was 80.
Mr. Price was so interested in Republican politics that he moved a seat with the Michigan delegation to the party’s 1948 national convention in Philadelphia, to show his support for the presidential candidacy of Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan.
Mr Price traveled to Yale, where, as a member of the Yale Political Union, a debate society, he was chairman of his Conservative party. He also helped revive a 19th-century Yale political discussion club, the Calliopean Society. The club came to be seen as part of a conservative intellectual movement to resist what its members saw as a liberal liberal consensus at Yale.
As a student, Mr. Price worked on Prescott S. Bush’s unsuccessful senatorial campaign in Connecticut in 1950. (Mr. Bush, father of President George HW Bush and grandfather of President George W. Bush, won a seat in that state’s Senate two years later.)
Mr. Price also helped William F. Buckley Jr. research his first book, “God and Man at Yale” (1951), considered a catalyst for the modern conservative movement. He graduated in 1951.
Mr. Price served in the Navy during the Korean War. He then worked for Collier’s and Life magazines before joining The Herald Tribune in 1957 as assistant editor. He worked as a columnist, acting Sunday editor and assistant to John Hay Whitney, owner, editor and editor, and was appointed editorial page editor in 1964.
That year, breaking with the Herald Tribune’s long history of supporting Republicans, Price wrote an op-ed supporting the election of President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, against Conservative Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. Mr Price argued that Mr Goldwater had made little effort to appeal to moderate Republicans and Independents.
When the Herald Tribune closed, Mr. Price turned down several attractive job offers to work on what turned out to be an unfinished novel. He wrote speeches for Illinois Republican Charles H. Percy during his successful campaign for the Senate in 1966.
On Washington’s birthday in 1967, Nixon surprised Mr. Price by offering him a job as part of his presidential campaign.
William Safire, who was already a speechwriter at Nixon and would become a columnist for the New York Times, said in an interview for this obituary that the hiring of Mr. Price in 1967 “raised a lot of eyebrows” among conservative Nixon supporters. . Not only had he supported President Johnson; he also voted for him. (Mr. Safire died in 2009.)
Mr. Price wrote most of the 1968 campaign speeches, although Mr. Safire said Nixon almost always revised his speeches and relied on the different perspectives of his speech writers. Mr. Price, for example, would sometimes be asked to consult a speech written by Patrick J. Buchanan, a conservative, and make it more moderate. Conversely, Mr Safire said, Mr Buchanan could be asked to “land” a project from Mr Price.
Mr. Price became head of Nixon’s speech writing team in December 1970, succeeding James Keogh, former editor of Time magazine.
After Nixon’s resignation, effective August 9, 1974, Mr. Price briefly remained in office. In an interview for this obituary in 2007, he denied published reports that he wrote a statement for Ford to read pardoning Nixon, but that the statement was not used. (Ford pardoned Nixon, making a televised statement from the Oval Office in early September.)
A week after Nixon left Washington for his home in San Clemente, California, he asked Mr. Price to visit him. Nixon asked him to be his primary contributor on his memoir, but Mr. Price said he was too “exhausted” to accept. He nevertheless helped on memoirs, and more substantially on four subsequent books by Nixon.
Mr. Price was later an assistant to William S. Paley, the president of CBS at the time; worked as a public policy consultant; and served on Presidential Commissions on Central America and the International Economy. For 19 years, he was president of the Economic Club of New York, a non-profit, non-partisan organization of business leaders.
Mr. Price returned to presidential speech writing in 1992 for a remarkable occasion: President George Bush’s acceptance of the Republican nomination for another term.
Mr. Price is survived by his sister, Beth Brown.
Mr. Price’s persuasive skills as a speechwriter were evident during the 1968 campaign, when Nixon attacked his Democratic opponent, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. The words of Mr. Price killed with kindness.
“Vice President Humphrey is a man I respect,” he wrote. “He is a man of honor and a man of convictions. And he honestly believes in the old ways. I believe in a new way.