Robert H. Fleming, 72, deputy press secretary to President Lyndon B. Johnson and chief of the ABC News Washington bureau, died of pneumonia Dec. 3 at George Washington University Hospital.

Mr. Fleming, who spent 35 years as a newspaper, radio and television reporter before joining the White House staff in 1966, was one of four network correspondents who participated in the first of the 1960 radio-television debates between presidential candidates Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy.

After leaving the White House in 1968, he was deputy director of the U.S. Information Agency, then worked for the House Select Committee on Crime, and later on the staff of Rep. Abraham Kazen (D-Tex.) before retiring in 1982.

Mr. Fleming was born in Madison, Wis., and graduated from the University of Wisconsin.

While still in college, he worked as a sports reporter for the Madison Capital Times. He met his future wife, Jean Elizabeth Heitkamp, on the press boat following the Wisconsin crew on Lake Mendota when they both were in college and she was writing a story for the campus newspaper.

Later, Mr. Fleming became a political reporter for the Milwaukee Journal, served in the Army during World War II, and then returned to the Journal.

During the period when the late Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wis.) was making charges about alleged communists in government, Mr. Fleming was one of several reporters assigned to investigate the senator, and he found that an injury McCarthy had claimed to have suffered during World War II had actually been received during a playful ceremony on a ship crossing the equator.

In 1950, Mr. Fleming was a Neiman Fellow at Harvard. He became the midwest bureau chief for Newsweek magazine in 1953 and came to Washington to join ABC News before the 1960 presidential elections.

His two years as deputy White House press secretary came at a time when tensions between the White House staff and the media over coverage of the war in Vietnam were high, and Mr. Fleming was sometimes critical of what his former colleagues said and wrote about the fighting.

Mr. Fleming was a member and former president of the Radio-Television Correspondents' Association, the Radio-TV News Directors Association, the National Press Club and the Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church, where he served as a deacon.

In addition to his wife, of Washington, Mr. Fleming's survivors include two sons, Robert H. Jr. and Frederick H., both also of Washington; a sister, Helen Johnston of Santa Barbara, Calif., and a brother, Charles, of Hinsdale, Ill. OBITUARIES R.H. Fleming, Newsman, Ex-Presidential Aide By Bart Barnes Washington Post Staff Writer

Robert H. Fleming, 72, deputy press secretary to President Lyndon B. Johnson and chief of the ABC News Washington bureau, died of pneumonia Dec. 3 at George Washington University Hospital.

Mr. Fleming, who spent 35 years as a newspaper, radio and television reporter before joining the White House staff in 1966, was one of four network correspondents who participated in the first of the 1960 radio-television debates between presidential candidates Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy.

After leaving the White House in 1968, he was deputy director of the U.S. Information Agency, then worked for the House Select Committee on Crime, and later on the staff of Rep. Abraham Kazen (D-Tex.) before retiring in 1982.

Mr. Fleming was born in Madison, Wis., and graduated from the University of Wisconsin.

While still in college, he worked as a sports reporter for the Madison Capital Times. He met his future wife, Jean Elizabeth Heitkamp, on the press boat following the Wisconsin crew on Lake Mendota when they both were in college and she was writing a story for the campus newspaper.

Later, Mr. Fleming became a political reporter for the Milwaukee Journal, served in the Army during World War II, and then returned to the Journal.

During the period when the late Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wis.) was making charges about alleged communists in government, Mr. Fleming was one of several reporters assigned to investigate the senator, and he found that an injury McCarthy had claimed to have suffered during World War II had actually been received during a playful ceremony on a ship crossing the equator.

In 1950, Mr. Fleming was a Neiman Fellow at Harvard. He became the midwest bureau chief for Newsweek magazine in 1953 and came to Washington to join ABC News before the 1960 presidential elections.

His two years as deputy White House press secretary came at a time when tensions between the White House staff and the media over coverage of the war in Vietnam were high, and Mr. Fleming was sometimes critical of what his former colleagues said and wrote about the fighting.

Mr. Fleming was a member and former president of the Radio-Television Correspondents' Association, the Radio-TV News Directors Association, the National Press Club and the Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church, where he served as a deacon.

In addition to his wife, of Washington, Mr. Fleming's survivors include two sons, Robert H. Jr. and Frederick H., both also of Washington; a sister, Helen Johnston of Santa Barbara, Calif., and a brother, Charles, of Hinsdale, Ill.