Saturday, 2:15 PM
C. Hale Champion, former senior public official, 85
By J.M. Lawrence, Globe Correspondent
C. Hale Champion, who in half a century of public service held senior positions in local, state and federal government and in academia, died Wednesday at Mount Auburn Hospital of complications from prostate cancer. He was 85.
In Massachusetts, one of Mr. Champion's highest-profile posts was serving as chief of staff for Governor Michael Dukakis while Dukakis was running for president. Mr. Champion had been the first executive dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government for eight years when Dukakis beckoned in 1987, asking Mr. Champion to leave the ivory tower.
“I needed somebody I could absolutely count on,” Dukakis said today, “and he was a rock. You had absolute confidence in him.”
Mr. Champion, who also served as head of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, was remembered by friends and former colleagues as a shrewd behind-the-scenes player with a strong intellect and a gift for cutting to the heart of complex matters.
“He would take a problem and boil it down to its essential elements,” said former Massport director David W. Davis, whose friendship with Champion spanned 40 years. “He was always fully engaged in the work.”
Born in Coldwater, Mich., Mr. Champion was an Army veteran of World War II.
He spent the early part of his career mostly in journalism, leaving in 1958 when he was hired as press secretary for newly elected California Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown.
Brown lost to Ronald Reagan in 1966 and Mr. Champion packed up his files to take a post at Harvard as a Kennedy Fellow at the Institute of Politics.
At Harvard, Champion was tapped by Boston Mayor Kevin White in 1968 to run the Boston Redevelopment Authority. He spent 18 months heading the BRA and oversaw the building of Quincy Market and commitments of $1 billion in commercial development, but left because of political difficulties with board members.
Mr. Champion then became executive vice president of the five-campus University of Minnesota system for two and half years before Harvard President Derek Bok convinced him to return to Cambridge. He was Harvard’s vice president for financial affairs from 1971 to 1977.
The Carter administration recruited Mr. Champion in 1977 to become undersecretary of Health Education and Welfare. Mr. Champion also was chairman of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation from 1990 to 1992 and taught at Harvard until retiring in 1995.
He spent his later years caring for his wife who suffers from Alzheimer’s, his son said.
“He became her caregiver. He stepped up and kept the home running,” Thomas said.
In addition to his son and wife, Mr. Champion leaves a daughter Katherine Champion Murphy of Cambridge; two granddaughters and a grandson. A memorial service in Cambridge is being planned.
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