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James H. Lake

James H. Lake

CALLAO—James H. Lake, who was Ronald Reagan’s communications director and press secretary during his presidential campaigns and also served as a key communication adviser in George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, died on May 29 at his home in Callao. He was 82. The cause was complications due to Alzheimer’s Disease.

Having served Gov. Ronald Reagan as head of California’s Washington, D.C., office in 1974, Mr. Lake went on to become his press secretary in his nearly successful challenge to Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination for the presidency in 1976. 

When Reagan successfully sought the nomination for President in 1980, Mr. Lake served as communications director and campaign press secretary until the eve of the New Hampshire primary, when he and other top aides were dismissed because of campaign disagreements with other long-standing Reagan aides. He and others were later reinstated. 

During Reagan’s 1984 re-election campaign, Mr. Lake again served as communications director and campaign press secretary. In the 1988 and 1992 presidential campaigns, Mr. Lake advised George H.W. Bush on press and media communications, and served as deputy campaign manager in President Bush’s 1992 bid for re-election. Mr. Lake was a top GOP official at four Republican conventions. 

James Howard Lake was born August 16, 1937, in Fresno, Calif., and attended high school and junior college in Bakersfield, Calif. He received a bachelor’s from the University of California at Los Angeles. After working in the grocery and family businesses, Mr. Lake entered California politics in 1966, helping two-time Olympic decathlon champion Bob Mathias defeat an incumbent to be elected to the U.S. Congress. Mr. Lake then served as Mathias’ district representative before moving to Washington, D.C., in 1970 to become his administrative assistant.

During Mr. Lake’s political and public policy career, he was deputy assistant secretary of agriculture for marketing and nutrition services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, working with assistant secretary Clayton Yeutter in the Nixon administration. 

Between presidential campaigns and thereafter, Mr. Lake advised agricultural and corporate clients on government relations and strategic corporate communications. He has been widely credited with developing a communications model that for the first time took effective political campaign strategies and applied them to corporate reputation and issue advocacy campaigns, transforming the public affairs landscape and profession. 

In the early 1980s, he was instrumental at Heron Burchette Ruckert & Rothwell in establishing the practice of law firms accepting non-lawyers as key members of the firm. In 1984, Mr. Lake co-founded the firm of Robinson Lake Lerer & Montgomery with offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City. The firm was later purchased by a global public relations agency. A frequent political commentator on CNN and Fox News, Mr. Lake was a partner in the then Barbour, Griffith, Rogers firm (now the BGR Group).

In 1997, Mr. Lake married Cynthia S. Hudson, and they resided together in Alexandria and Callao.   

Survivors include his wife, Cynthia Hudson; twin sons, James C. Lake (Rhonda) of Alexandria and Michael B. Lake (Chelsea) of McLean; a brother, Monte B. Lake (Susan) of Callao; eight grandchildren, six great-grandchildren; many nieces, nephews, grandnephews, and a grandniece. Mr. Lake was preceded in death by his sister, Joan Madison; son, Garrett D. Lake; and niece, Catherine M. Lake.

Celebrations of life will be held at later dates.

The Lake and Hudson families request that in lieu of flowers, anyone wishing to honor Mr. Lake do so by making a donation to the MINDlink Foundation, mindlinkfoundation.org/donate. The foundation was established in Catie Lake’s honor to support the pioneering cerebellum research of Dr. Jeremy Schmahmann’s Laboratory or Neuroanatomy and Cerebellar Neurobiology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Welch Funeral Home – Marks Chapel handled the arrangements.

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