William F. Arbogast, 71, a retired Associated Press newsman who was for years dean of the correspondents covering the House of Representatives, died of cancer Tuesday night at Fairfax Hospital.
In recent years, he was assistant staff director of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.
Mr. Arbogast began covering the House in 1941. On his retirement from The Associated Press June 30, 1973, he called his assignment "the best beat in town." He had been head of the AP House staff since 1944.
Mr. Arbogast was on familiar terms with five speakers and other congressional leaders of both parties. Especially close to the late Speaker Sam Rayburn, he regularly sat in on Rayburn's "board of eduction" sessions, when the congressional chiefs gathered at the end of the day to gossip and plan strategy over a friendly glass of bourbon.
Lyndon B. Johnson was a regular attendant when he was Senate Democratic leader, and it was from the "board of education" that Harry S. Truman was called to learn that Franklin D. Roosevelt had died and he was president.
When Puerto Rican extremists opened fire on the House March 1, 1954, wounding five members, Mr. Arbogast was in the press gallery. Crouched with a telephone behind its marble ledge, he dictated a running account to his office.
Among the scores of major legislative stories he covered were the Alger Hiss hearings of the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities that first brought Richard M. Nixon, then a young congressman, to national attention.
What he called the saddest assignment of his life was to go to Dallas in 1962 when Rayburn was hospitalized with terminal cancer. He was first with the story of Rayburn's death after the longest career as speaker in history.
Mr. Arbogast was born June 12, 1908, in Bellevue, Ky. He attended schools there and in Cincinnati and studied at the University of Cincinnati while working for the Covington, Ky., Times-Star. He later served as AP correspondent in Frankfort, the state capital.
Mr. Arbogast served as chairman of the Standing Committee of Correspondents, which administers the congressional press galleries. He was a longtime active member of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Alexandria, and was one of the volunteers manning a hotline for troubled persons in Alexandria.
Mr. Arbogast married Eleanor Regan in 1932. She died in 1977.
His survivors include seven children, Julie Illsley of Annadale, Col. William Regan, now stationed in Saudi Arabia, Timothy Thomas of Myrtle Beach, S.C. Sue Ellen Foley of Pittsburgh, Ned Brooks of Roanoke, David Lorenz of Leesburg, and Joseph Emmit of Reston.
Mr. Arbogast also leaves 13 grandchildren, two brothers, John of Alexandria and Paul, of Frankfort, and two sisters, Anne, of Frankfort and Mary Oerther of Altoona, Pa.