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Former Reagan spokesman Larry Speakes dies at 74

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JACKSON, Miss. – Larry Speakes, who spent six years as acting press secretary for President Ronald Reagan, died Friday in his native Mississippi. He was 74.

Speakes died at home in Cleveland, Miss., where he had lived the past several years, said Bolivar County Coroner Nate Brown. Brown said Speakes had Alzheimer’s disease. “He died in his sleep and it was a natural death,” he said.

Speakes was buried in North Cleveland Cemetery Friday morning, said Kenny Williams of Cleveland Funeral Home.

Speakes became Reagan’s acting spokesman after Press Secretary James Brady was wounded during an assassination attempt on Reagan in 1981.

Republican Haley Barbour, who served as Mississippi governor from 2004 to 2012, was political director of the Reagan White House when Speakes worked there. He said Friday that it wasn’t unusual to have tension between the political office and the press office, but he and Speakes had a good working relationship.

Barbour said that within the Reagan administration, people generally admired Speakes’ handling of the press, although Speakes could be abrupt.

“Sometimes, that meant reporters didn’t get everything they wanted, and sometimes it meant they didn’t get anything,” Barbour said Friday. “But, Larry knew who he worked for.”

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