BALTIMORE, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Retired Gen. Alexander Haig Jr., a top official to three U.S. presidents, died Saturday at age 85 at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, officials said.
Haig was admitted to Johns Hopkins Jan. 28 with an infection and died at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, hospital spokesman Gary Stephenson told CNN.
Haig, a four-star Army general, served as commander of NATO and secretary of state under Ronald Reagan, and in 1988 ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination. Haig also served as a senior adviser in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon.
Haig gained notoriety in 1981 after President Reagan was shot and wounded and then Vice President George H.W. Bush was en route from Texas to Washington.
"As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending the return of the vice president," Haig declared shortly after the shooting.
Haig was born in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, and attended the University of Notre Dame for two years before transferring to the U.S. Military Academy in 1944. After graduation in 1947, he served in Japan and led combat units in Korea and in Vietnam.
The president -- accompanied by a dozen U.S. middle school students who were in Washington for a national engineering competition -- called the space station from the White House to offer his congratulations for their work. Obama said he is proud and excited about the work being done on the space station and told the crews of space shuttle Endeavour and the ISS he is committed to continuing human space exploration and complimented them on being "great role models."
After the presidential chat, the crews went back to work transferring and installing racks in the space station's new Tranquility node. Then, NASA said, they re-boosted the station using Endeavour's thrusters, reconfigured spacesuits and passed the 75-percent mark of supply and equipment transfers between the two spacecraft.
The 33-minute re-boost procedure occurred a little after 2:30 a.m. EST Thursday. When it was completed, NASA said the station's altitude had been raised by about 1.3 miles to an orbit that ranges from 208 to 219 miles above Earth.