In 1992, Manatt served as national co-chairman of Bill Clinton's winning presidential campaign, and in 1999, during Clinton's second term, he became U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic.
After graduating from Iowa State University, where he joined the Young Democrats, Manatt started law school at the University of Iowa, then transferred to George Washington University, where he graduated in 1962.
While at Iowa State, Manatt married Kathleen Klinkefus, his high school sweetheart and a fellow student. In 1964, the couple moved to Los Angeles, where Manatt took a job with the powerhouse law firm O'Melveny & Myers.
In 1965, Manatt paired with Tom Phelps — whom he met at Iowa State — to create a law firm, starting with a walk-up office near Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. The two weren't paid much, Manatt later joked, and were probably worth the price.
Manatt, Phelps and Phillips eventually would become one of the largest law firms in the country, with hundreds of attorneys and a constellation of celebrity clients, including, at various times, Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, Michael Douglas, Donald Trump and the firms Time Warner, Lionsgate and DreamWorks.
Manatt also worked in banking, becoming chairman of the First Los Angeles Bank in 1973 and later serving a term as president of the California Bankers Assn.
He was perhaps best known, though, for his work in politics. Manatt served as chairman of the California Democratic Party in the early 1970s, then rose steadily through the ranks of the national party.
His law firm served as a kind of farm team for party operatives. In 1984, when Manatt led the Democratic National Committee, associates headed the California campaigns of the party's two leading presidential hopefuls, Gary Hart and Walter Mondale.
Besides his wife of 53 years, Manatt is survived by daughter Michele, sons Timothy and Daniel, and three grandchildren.
George Washington University Law School , J.D., 1962.
Iowa State University, B.S., 1958.