The public affairs community said goodbye to one of its pioneers last week when Richard Armstrong, a legendary matchmaker between politics and Corporate America, passed away. He was 75 years old.Often referred to as "the father of public affairs,
Armstrong headed the Public Affairs Council (PAC) for 30 years, from 1958 until his retirement in 1988. During his tenure, the PAC grew from a tiny, New York-based operation (originally called the Effective Citizens Organization) into a 600-member powerhouse headquartered in Washington, DC, training some of the most influential public affairs officers in America.
"When people talk about the real giants of corporate public affairs, Dick Armstrong's name is always at the top of the list,
said Doug Pinkham, current PAC president. "He understood that a public affairs executive has to be a strategist, an advocate, a communicator and a student of the human experience - all rolled into one person. Without Dick, there would be no PAC."
Many credit Armstrong for convincing private corporations that involvement with politics was worth their while. By attending his decades worth of seminars and trainings with the PAC, corporate leaders discovered how they could benefit by having employees dedicated solely to communicating with elected officials. Hence his efforts helped bring about the modern state of government relations in DC.
"Because of his leadership, the practice of corporate and association public affairs went from a nebulous, somewhat disreputable corporate activity to a professional, managerial function based on analysis and systems,
said Michael Dunn, president of public affairs firm Michael E. Dunn & Associates.
Presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon all expressed their appreciation for Armstrong in individual letters upon his retirement.
Armstrong died in Frederick, MD, where he spent most of his retired life.
He had been suffering from diabetes. He is survived by his wife, Dorinne, a brother, Peter, and his two children, Richard and Lydia.
Armstrong served with the Navy in Asia during WWII. Before joining the PAC, Armstrong worked with the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce and the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company.
A memorial was planned for this past Saturday in Frederick. In lieu of flowers, the family asked that contributions be made to Friend of the Library, 11 East Patrick Street, Frederick, MD, 21701.