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Lobbyist, Senate Aide Howard Liebengood Dies

By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 16, 2005; Page C10

Howard S. Liebengood, 62, who was Senate sergeant-at-arms, chief of staff for two senators and a prominent Washington lobbyist, died Jan. 13 of a heart attack at his home in Vienna.

Mr. Liebengood, a protege of former Senate majority leader Howard K. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.), was sergeant-at-arms from 1981 to 1983. The sensitive position required an in-depth knowledge of Senate rules, security and protocol, as well as the skills to manage a $49 million budget and a staff of more than 1,200.

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Among other duties, he supervised 185 computer specialists, nine carpenters and seven barbers and the Capitol Police, which had a force of more than 500 officers at the time. He also steered the Senate post office through a minor scandal when a clerk, who was the niece of Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), admitted stealing $12,000 and later pleaded guilty in federal court.

Mr. Liebengood left his Senate position in 1983 to join the Tobacco Institute as executive vice president for federal relations. The following year, he formed a lobbying firm, Gold and Liebengood, with another former Capitol Hill staffer, Martin Gold.

The company, whose clients included the Chemical Manufacturers Association, Federal Express, Fiat USA, Martin Marietta and the Hopi Indian tribe, was the fifth-largest lobbying firm in Washington when it was bought by Burson-Marsteller in 1989. Washingtonian magazine named Mr. Liebengood and his partner, Gold, among the 25 most powerful lobbyists in the city.

"He was tremendously open and helpful to people of all walks of life and both political parties," Gold said. "He was universally liked."

Mr. Liebengood stayed with the restructured company for several years before moving to the law firm of Powell, Goldstein, Frazer and Murphy. In 1995, he became chief lobbyist for Philip Morris Cos. Inc.

He returned to Capitol Hill in 2001 to join his longtime friend from Tennessee, Sen. Fred Thompson (R), as chief of staff. When Thompson retired two years later, Mr. Liebengood became chief of staff of the personal office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

"When I came to my current position," Frist said in a statement, "I needed the counsel of wise, experienced leaders to help me meet the challenges of my new role. Without question, Howard Liebengood was indispensable."

Frist also said Mr. Liebengood will be remembered for "his jovial manner and long repertoire of Senate anecdotes."

Mr. Liebengood retired last month.

He was born in South Bend, Ind., and grew up in Plymouth, Ind. He graduated from Kansas State University and, in 1967, from Vanderbilt University law school in Nashville. One of his classmates at Vanderbilt was Thompson.

In an interview with USA Today in 2000, Mr. Liebengood said he and Thompson "were probably the two guys least likely to succeed in our class."

As conservatives and products of public schools, he said, they felt out of place on the campus of an elite private university. In a statement, Thompson called Mr. Liebengood his "best friend."

Mr. Liebengood was a captain in the Army military police from 1968 to 1970. He served in Vietnam and received a Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal. He practiced law in Nashville before coming to Washington in 1973 as minority counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee. A year later, he opened a law firm in Nashville with Thompson.

He returned to Washington in 1975 as a consultant with a senatorial committee investigating the nation's intelligence services. He was named minority staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 1976 and four years later became legislative counsel to Baker.

Survivors include his wife of 40 years, Deanna Liebengood of Vienna; and three children, Howard Liebengood Jr. of Vienna, John Liebengood of Alexandria and Anne Winters of Falls Church.

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