WASHINGTON — Marlin Fitzwater, the easygoing press secretary to Vice President George Bush, was named today as chief spokesman for President Reagan, succeeding Larry Speakes.
"I think it's obvious the President wanted an anchorman type--thin, with a lot of hair," the balding, stocky Fitzwater joked. Speakes called Fitzwater "the ideal choice for the job."
He will take over the $77,400-a-year job Feb. 2, when Speakes leaves the White House after six years to become a highly paid senior communications adviser at Merrill Lynch.
The 44-year-old Fitzwater has served in a wide variety of government public affairs posts. From August, 1983, until April, 1985, when he moved to Bush's office, Fitzwater was a White House deputy press secretary under Speakes.
The Kansas native served as a press spokesman for nine years at the Environmental Protection Agency before moving to the Treasury Department as spokesman for then-Secretary Donald T. Regan, who now is White House chief of staff.
Fitzwater said he will report to the President through Regan.
Speakes said Fitzwater will have the new title "assistant to the President for press relations."
James Brady, wounded in the March, 1981, attempt on Reagan's life, retains the formal title of press secretary and throughout his own tenure, Speakes was known only as "deputy press secretary."
Fitzwater acknowledged the "difficult times" the Reagan Administration faces because of the Iran arms scandal, but said, "They will not erase the indelible marks of pride and affection that Americans feel for our President and for our country."
"In the broader sense," Fitzwater said, "I have served in the government for the last 20 years. And every day in that job, I have tried to keep one thought in mind: That we are doing the people's business here and we should be able to explain what we're doing."
Bush had no immediate announcement of a successor to Fitzwater, who said he regarded the White House job as "a great honor and a great privilege." He put off any further discussion of his views until he takes over from Speakes.
Before working for the government, Fitzwater worked for several newspapers in Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Manhattan Mercury and the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle.