Laird was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on 1 September 1922. In 1942 he graduated from Carleton College in Minnesota, then entered the United States Navy as an enlisted man. He received an ensign's commission in April 1944 and served on a destroyer in the Pacific. The recipient of the Purple Heart and several other decorations, Laird left the Navy in April 1946.
After a brief absence Laird returned to the Nixon administration in June 1973 as counselor to the president for domestic affairs, concerning himself mainly with legislative issues. In February 1974, as the Watergate crisis in the White House deepened, Laird resigned to become senior counselor for national and international affairs for Reader's Digest.
About the same time, at age 23, Laird entered the Wisconsin State Senate, succeeding his recently deceased father. He remained there until his election in November 1952 to the United States House of Representatives. Subsequently reelected eight consecutive times, he was chairman of the House Republican Conference when Nixon selected him for the cabinet.
By the time Nixon, facing impeachment, resigned on Aug. 9, 1974, Mr. Laird had left the White House as the Watergate crisis deepened to become the senior counselor on national and international affairs for the Reader’s Digest Association.
In 1945, Mr. Laird married his college sweetheart, Barbara Masters. She died in 1991. He married Carole Howard in 1993, and she survives him.
Besides her and his son David, from his first marriage, Mr. Laird is survived by two other children from his first marriage, Alison Laird-Large and John; a stepdaughter, Kimberly Dalgleish; four grandsons; and one step-granddaughter.more » « less