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C. Langhorne Washburn, Commerce Department official

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011; 9:20 PM

C. Langhorne Washburn, 92, who served as an assistant secretary of commerce in the Nixon and Ford administrations before joining the Walt Disney Co. as an executive, died March 4 at his home in Middleburg, Va., of complications from a fall.

Like his forebears, Mr. Washburn was active in Republican politics. Before moving to Washington in 1965, he served in Dwight D. Eisenhower's and Richard M. Nixon's presidential campaigns. He was finance director for the Republican National Committee when President Nixon appointed him to be assistant secretary of commerce for tourism in 1970.

After serving in the same position under President Gerald Ford, Mr. Washburn became vice president of what was then called Walt Disney Productions, where he acted as an international liaison for the company's Epcot theme park in Florida. He retired in 1983.

Cary Langhorne Washburn was born in Livermore Falls, Maine, and grew up in Lakehurst, N.J. He was a University of Virginia graduate.

During World War II, he served as a Navy pilot in the Pacific.

Before moving to Washington, Mr. Washburn did public relations work in New York. Later, he invented a device that could automatically monitor merchandise sales in supermarkets. The technology was purchased by the A.C. Nielsen TV ratings company, which then hired him as a vice president.

He was a collector of antique train sets.

His marriages to Peggy Harrison and Paula Melhado ended in divorce.

Survivors include his third wife, Judith Davies Washburn of Middleburg; three children from his first marriage, Alice Taylor of San Mateo, Calif., Cary Washburn of Cuernavaca, Mexico, and Tayloe Washburn of Seattle; two children from his second marriage, Alexandra Washburn-Weidlein of Oxford, Miss., and Pammy Brooks of Greenwich, Conn.; two children from his third marriage, Serena Washburn of Barcelona and Natalie Washburn of Washington; 14 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

- T. Rees Shapiro


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