Former Secretaries of State Lawrence Eagleburger (under Former President Bush), right, and Alexander Haig, Jr. (under Former President Reagan) chat with reporters following a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House in Washington on January 5, 2006. Bush met with former secretaries of state and defense to discuss the war in Iraq. (UPI Photo/Roger L . Wollenberg) | License Photo
BALTIMORE, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Retired Gen. Alexander Haig Jr., a top official to three U.S. presidents, died Saturday at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, officials said. He was 85.
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, and as President Ronald Reagan's first secretary of state.
Haig gained notoriety in 1981 after 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.
U.S. President Barack Obama, in a statement, called Haig a "great American who served our country with distinction. General Haig exemplified our finest warrior-diplomat tradition of those who dedicate their lives to public service."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Haig earned "the thanks of a grateful nation."
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.