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Protocol Officer and Artist David Waters Dies at 81

By Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 30, 2005; Page B05

David Waters, 81, a protocol officer under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson who also was an accomplished artist, died March 20 at the Washington Community Hospice. He had Crohn's disease.

Mr. Waters came to Washington in 1955 as a television adviser to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. During the Kennedy administration, he was assistant chief of protocol for public affairs and the press. Under Johnson, he was deputy press secretary.


David Waters was involved in the Live Aid concerts for famine relief. (File Photo)

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He later served on loan to the Foreign Service and was stationed in Spain with former ambassador Angier Biddle Duke. He returned to State to serve as assistant chief of protocol and left the government during the Nixon administration, retiring from State in 1973.

David Joseph Waters was born in Ottawa, Ill., and studied scenic design and directing at the Art Institute of Chicago's Goodman Theatre.

He started his career working as a director and producer for NBC in Chicago. He worked on such shows as "Kukla, Fran & Ollie," "Zoo Parade" and public affairs and news with John Chancellor.

After producing a 30-minute show about Dulles -- Carol Burnett did a parody of him -- he was asked to work for the secretary of state in Washington as his television adviser.

After his State Department years, Mr. Waters became a public relations consultant. He also was a visiting scholar at Georgetown University, where he assisted the school's Center for Immigration Policy and Refugee Assistance.

In the mid-1980s, he worked with Bob Geldof, the singer, songwriter and activist, on his Live Aid concerts to benefit Ethiopian famine relief.

As an abstract expressionist painter, Mr. Waters's works have been exhibited in more than 25 countries as part of the State Department's "Art in Embassies" program. His work is in private collections as well as the Govinda Gallery and the Alla Rogers Gallery, both in Washington.

A sculptor, he also created busts of Kennedy, Dulles and former secretary of state Dean Rusk. His bust of Kennedy was given to the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Mr. Waters completed the Kennedy bust after working on funeral arrangement for the president. "I got back home and couldn't sleep," he once said. "I was angry at a society who could knock off a president. I went home and into my studio and worked for 2 1/2 hours, somehow trying to bring him back to life."

His most recent art show, "Irish Remembrance," was at the Govinda Gallery in February and March 2004. The show was a collection of collages primarily about Ireland and Cuba.

He also was known by colleagues as a wit and raconteur. Political satirist Mark Russell once called Mr. Waters "one of the funniest men in Washington."

"He was always getting up and spontaneously going into improvisational monologues," said daughter Kerry Waters. He was a satirist and also did impersonations of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Kennedy and others.

At the Mayflower Hotel, he and then-former president Harry S. Truman reportedly shared a series of impersonations, with Mr. Waters doing Kennedy.

"The most important thing in life is a laugh, and they are hard to come by," Mr. Waters said.

In addition to his daughter, of Washington, survivors include his wife of 57 years, Andre Waters of Washington; another daughter, Kim Waters of Sister Bay, Wis.; and a grandson.


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