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Leonard Marks, 90; U.S. Information Agency Director

August 16, 2006|From the Washington Post

Leonard H. Marks, the head of the U.S. Information Agency during the Vietnam War, died Friday at a hospice in Washington, D.C. He was 90 and had been battling Parkinson's disease.

President Johnson named Marks, a communications lawyer, to the post in 1965 based on his long representation of Lady Bird Johnson's Texas radio and television holdings.

He had helped guide the first lady's holdings into immensely profitable media assets, which were crucial to LBJ's political career.

During his three years at the U.S. Information Agency, he oversaw a $178-million international operation that published magazines in dozens of languages, distributed hundreds of films and documentaries, and beamed pro-American news abroad through the Voice of America.

Marks said a highlight of his tenure was starting a cross-cultural exchange program with Egypt to challenge the pan-Arab nationalism of Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser.

As part of the program, Marks brought six prominent Egyptians to the United States and allowed them to travel freely and meet prominent Americans.

Among the visitors was Anwar Sadat, who would one day be president of Egypt.

Born in Pittsburgh, Marks entered the University of Pittsburgh at 15 and was later the top graduate of his law school class.

During World War II, he worked in the Office of Price Administration in Washington before being assigned to the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service.

After the war, he started a law practice that became one of Washington's leading communication law firms.

Survivors include two sons and five grandchildren.

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