Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, a four-star general who served as a top adviser to three presidents and had presidential ambitions of his own, died on Saturday of complications from an infection, his family said. He was 85.
Mr Haig's long and decorated military career launched the Washington career for which he is better known, including top posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. He never lived down his televised response to the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
Hours after the shooting, then Secretary of State Haig went before the cameras intending, he said later, to reassure Americans that the White House was functioning.
``As of now, I am in control here in the White House, pending the return of the vice president,'' said Mr Haig.
Some saw the comment as an inappropriate power grab in the absence of Vice President George H.W. Bush, who was flying back to Washington from Texas.
In his book, ``Caveat,'' Mr Haig later wrote that he had been ``guilty of a poor choice of words and optimistic if I had imagined I would be forgiven the imprecision out of respect for the tragedy of the occasion.''
Mr Haig ran unsuccessfully for president in 1988, when Mr Bush won the Republican nomination.
President Barack Obama praised Mr Haig as a public servant who ``exemplified our finest warrior-diplomat tradition of those who dedicate their lives to public service. He enjoyed a remarkable and decorated career, rising to become a four-star general and serving
as Supreme Allied Commander of Europe before also serving as Secretary of State.''
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Mr Haig ``served his country in many capacities for many years, earning honor on the battlefield, the confidence of presidents and prime ministers, and the thanks of a grateful nation.''
``I think of him as a patriot's patriot,'' said George P. Shultz, who succeeded Mr Haig as the country's top diplomat in 1982.
``No matter how you sliced him it came out red, white and blue. He was always willing to serve.''