William Lash; Commerce Official, Professor

While assistant secretary of Commerce, William Lash went to Beijing to issue a rebuke for counterfeiting.
While assistant secretary of Commerce, William Lash went to Beijing to issue a rebuke for counterfeiting. (By Ng Han Guan -- Associated Press)
Sunday, July 23, 2006

William Henry Lash III, 45, a law professor at George Mason University and former assistant secretary of Commerce, died July 14 at his home in McLean. Mr. Lash committed suicide by gunshot after killing his 12-year-old son.

He was born in Jersey City and raised in Rahway, N.J. He received a bachelor's degree from Yale University in 1982 and a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1985.

After serving as a clerk on the N.J. Supreme Court, Mr. Lash joined the Washington offices of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson.

During the Reagan administration, Mr. Lash served as counsel to the chairman of the U.S. International Trade Commission.

In 1989, he began his academic career at Western New England College of Law in Springfield, Mass. The next year, Mr. Lash joined the faculty of St. Louis University School of Law in Missouri, where students voted him Professor of the Year three of the four years he taught there. Mr. Lash was also the Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of American Business at Washington University in St. Louis.

Mr. Lash, an advocate for free markets, returned to the Washington area in 1994 as a professor of law at George Mason. He taught corporate and securities law and international trade and was voted Professor of the Year. He also served on the board of advisers for the CATO Institute's Center for Trade Policy Studies and as an adjunct fellow at Citizens for a Sound Economy. From 1994 through March 2001, Mr. Lash was sought by major television media as a legal analyst for diverse issues, including the vote recount in the 2000 presidential election.

From 2001 until 2005, he served as the assistant secretary of commerce for market access and compliance, where he worked to ensure that U.S. companies and workers realized the benefits of U.S. trade agreements. He also served as the U.S. economic commissioner to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, where he sought to reduce human trafficking. In addition, he led the Department of Commerce's Iraq and Afghanistan reconstruction task forces.

After his government service, Mr. Lash returned to the law faculty at George Mason. He also was a senior adviser to the Brunswick Group LLC, a corporate public relations firm. His writings on a variety of business, trade and political issues were published in scholarly journals, magazines, newspapers and books. He also published a book, "U.S. International Trade Regulation: A Primer," in 1998.

Survivors include his wife, Sharon K. Zackula of McLean; his parents, Vivian and William H. Lash, Jr. of Hackettstown, N.J.; and a sister, Dr. Deirdre Habermehl.

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