Lawrence F. O'Brien Jr., 73, a master of modern political organization who was an assistant to presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and an innovative commissioner of the National Basketball Association, died of cancer Sept. 27 at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in New York City.

He also spent three years in the Johnson Cabinet as postmaster general and had served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Known everywhere as Larry O'Brien, he played important parts in the nation's political drama from the changing of the generational guard that occurred with the election in 1960 of Kennedy -- the first White House occupant to be born in this century -- to the impeachment and resignation of President Nixon in 1974.

Mr. O'Brien first came to national prominence as the organizer of Kennedy's 1960 primary and presidential campaigns. Thereafter he was Kennedy's liaison with Capitol Hill. He helped persuade a Congress dominated by Republicans and southern Democratic conservatives to back such measures as the establishment of the Peace Corps and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the extension of the Civil Rights Commission. And he was with Kennedy when the president fell to a sniper's bullet in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

When Johnson succeeded to the presidency, he asked Mr. O'Brien to be his postmaster general. In that job, he produced a report that resulted in the establishment of the U.S. Postal Service and the removal of the postmaster generalship from the Cabinet. He also reported to Johnson on the political consequences of the rising tide of dismay at the war in Vietnam.

In 1968, when Johnson announced he would not seek another term in the White House but instead would concentrate on seeking an end to the war in Southeast Asia, Mr. O'Brien heeded a call from Robert F. Kennedy to assist him in his own bid for the presidency. He was with Robert Kennedy when he was shot to death in a hotel in Los Angeles on June 6, 1968, just after winning the crucial California primary.

Mr. O'Brien later worked in the presidential campaigns of Hubert H. Humphrey and George S. McGovern, and he twice served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

He was head of the DNC in June 1972, when his office at the Watergate complex in Washington was broken into by burglars who wanted to wiretap his conversations to gain political intelligence. The incident precipitated the scandal that led to Nixon's impeachment and resignation two years later.

From 1975 to 1984, Mr. O'Brien was commissioner of the NBA. In an interview in 1980, he told Washington Post sportswriter Thomas Boswell that he had been a "ref baiter and a screamer" of a basketball fan since his boyhood in Springfield, Mass., where the game was invented. Despite this description, Boswell said the commissioner was so pleasant and self-effacing that if he were "assigned to command the pearly gates in heaven, he could convince you that he was nothing more than a humble night watchman."

Mr. O'Brien became commissioner at a time when the NBA was far from the wondrous blend of riches, skill and passionate enthusiasm that it is today, with millions of fans all over the world. One of Mr. O'Brien's early tasks, in fact, was to bring it into its present organizational form by bringing about a merger of the NBA and the American Basketball Association.

He also negotiated a landmark $74 million television contract with CBS that ensured the financial stability of the league, and he instituted various measures to keep the teams competitive with each other, including a limit on the salary each team can pay at a given time. To make the game more interesting, he instituted the three-point shot. The NBA's world championship cup has been named "The Larry O'Brien Trophy" in his honor.

Mr. O'Brien's most far-reaching contribution, however, may have been in the field of political organization. He was a founder of the modern school of politics in which success is defined by degree to which people get involved.

In his book "The Making of the President, 1960," Theodore H. White said that the difference between the old and new politics is the difference between inclusion and exclusion. "In a tight old-fashioned machine," he wrote, "the idea is to operate with as few people as possible, keeping decision and action in the hands of as few inside men as possible. In the new style . . . the central idea is to give as many people as possible a sense of participation; participation galvanizes emotions, gives the participant a live stake in the victory of the leader."

Mr. O'Brien told how to do this in a publication called "O'Brien's Manual," a 64-page outline of all of John F. Kennedy's campaigns from his reelection to the House of Representatives in 1950 through his elections to the Senate in 1952 and 1958.

In 1958, for example, the Kennedy organization circulated a nominating petition among Massachusetts voters that was signed by 256,000 people. At the same time, the campaign was swamped with offers to help from 1,800 volunteers for whom there was nothing to do. Mr. O'Brien's solution was to put the 1,800 to work sending thank-you notes to every one of the petition signers. Thus the signers had the satisfaction of thanks while the volunteers could be proud of their service.

Mr. O'Brien's organizational work in the crucial West Virginia primary in 1960, White said, was "a masterpiece."

Lawrence Francis O'Brien Jr. was born on July 7, 1917. The place of his birth was the Roland Hotel in Springfield, which was owned by his father. His mother was the former Myra Sweeney. Both parents had immigrated to Massachusetts from County Cork, Ireland.

The senior O'Brien got into Democratic Party politics as a reaction to anti-Irish prejudice. By the time his son was 15, he was following his father's footsteps as a part-time party worker. The boy also played basketball and was a member of the debating team at Cathedral High School. He earned a law degree at Northeastern University by going to night school, and during World War II he served in the Army.

After the war, he went into the family real estate business and opened a cafe in Springfield. Before long, he was running a congressional campaign for Foster Furcolo, a longtime friend. Furcolo lost in 1946, but he was successful in 1948. Mr. O'Brien accompanied him to Washington as his administrative assistant. In 1950, their partnership broke up in unexplained recriminations, and Mr. O'Brien went back to Springfield.

Soon after, John Kennedy called him. Then a member of the House of Representatives, Kennedy had his eye on the U.S. Senate seat held by Henry Cabot Lodge, and he wanted to test his chances in the 1952 election. That campaign was successful, despite a Republican landslide with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower at the head of the GOP's national ticket, and Kennedy was reelected by a wide margin in 1958. The following year, Mr. O'Brien joined Kennedy in planning his run for the White House.

In his memoirs, "No Final Victories," published in 1974, Mr. O'Brien recalled his first contacts with Kennedy in 1950. The congressman wanted him to arrange a meeting with leaders in the Springfield area, and Furcolo, as the local congressman, objected on the ground that Kennedy had not cleared this with him. He also said Mr. O'Brien had legal problems.

Without hesitation, Kennedy took Mr. O'Brien's side. Mr. O'Brien wrote that he sometimes thought back "to that time when {Kennedy} had to make a quick judgment between Furcolo and me. Furcolo was a member of Congress; I was a cafe owner whom Kennedy knew precious little about . . . . But Kennedy chose to trust me rather than Furcolo, and I would have to say that I don't know another man in politics who would have made the same decision."

That was the sort of thing that Mr. O'Brien cherished in politics. But after the 1968 presidential campaign, he decided he had had enough. He left Washington and moved to New York City as president of McDonnell & Co., an investment banking firm. From 1970 to 1972, he returned to the political wars as head of the DNC and then was a consultant in New York until heading the NBA.

Mr. O'Brien's survivors include his wife, the former Elva Brassard, whom he married in 1944, of New York City; a son, Lawrence F. O'Brien III of Washington; a sister, Mary Blaczek of Wilbraham, Mass.; and two grandsons.


Administrative Judge

Oscar Hall Paris Jr., 59, an administrative judge on the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, died Sept. 26 at his home in Damascus. He had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Dr. Paris was born in Greensboro, N.C. He graduated from the University of North Carolina, where he also received a master's degree in zoology. He received a doctorate in zoology from the University of California at Berkeley.

He had taught at the universities of North Carolina and California at Berkeley, where he also served as associate dean of the college of letters and science in 1966 and 1967. From 1971 to 1976, he was head of the department of zoology and physiology at the University of Wyoming. He was director of Wyoming's Jackson Hole Biological Research Station from 1972 to 1976.

He had been an administrative judge at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission since 1976.

He was an authority on population and radiation ecology and environmental impacts, and he had written extensively on the biological effects of ionizing radiation.

Dr. Paris was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Ecological Society of America.

Survivors include his wife, Nancy Benedict Paris of Damascus; and three children, Ann Paris of Kirkland, Wash., Pattie Paris of Napa, Calif., and Lewis Hall Paris of Felton, Calif.


FMA Trade Specialist

Edward L. Formoso, 67, a retired Federal Maritime Administration trade specialist who was a former Burtonsville and Annapolis resident, died of cancer Sept. 23 in Hampton, Va.

Mr. Formoso, who had lived in Kitty Hawk, N.C., since 1986, died at a temporary residence. He was undergoing cancer treatment at a hospital in Hampton.

A native of New York City, he came to the Washington area in 1950, then returned to New York for a time in the early 1970s. He then moved to Annapolis where he lived until retiring to Kitty Hawk.

Mr. Formoso was a graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y., and Georgetown University's foreign service school. He served with the Merchant Marine in the Atlantic and Persian Gulf during World War II.

After the war, he worked for the Military Sealift Command and the Maritime Administration before joining the old Pacific Far East Line in the early 1960s. In the early 1980s, he returned to the FMA, where he worked until retiring in 1986.

Mr. Formoso helped found the D.C. chapter of the Merchant Marine Academy alumni organization. He was a member of the Propeller Club and the National Defense Transportation Association.

Survivors include his wife, Catherine Elizabeth, of Kitty Hawk; a brother, Michael, of Riverdale, N.Y.; and a sister, Marguerite Tromba of Kitty Hawk.


Secret Service Agent

Raymond J. King, 80, a Secret Service agent for 30 years before retiring in 1969, died of congestive heart failure Sept. 28 at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Va.

He had been assigned at the White House and other postings, including Hyde Park, N.Y., the home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In retirement, Mr. King had worked as assistant to the administrator at the Corcoran Art Gallery.

Mr. King, who lived in Spotsylvania, Va., was born in Washington. He graduated from Sacred Heart High School and Marshall University in West Virginia. He was an Army veteran of World War II.

He was a member of the Fredericksburg Battlefield Lions Club, the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans.

A former resident of Annandale, he had lived in Spotsylvania for about 12 years.

Survivors include his wife, Ruth G. King of Spotsylvania; a son, Raymond R. "Rusty" King of Nokesville, Va.; two brothers, Richard H. King of Hilo, Hawaii, and Robert E. King of Crownsville, Md.; and four grandchildren.


Air Force Colonel

Howard H. Berodt, 68, a retired Air Force colonel, died of cancer Sept. 25 at his home in Columbia.

Col. Berodt was born in Dixon, Iowa. He was an Army Air Forces pilot in Europe during World War II, and his plane was shot down twice, once over France and once over Belgium.

He was discharged after the war but rejoined the Air Force in 1947, and served in California, South Dakota, Idaho, Nebraska and Ohio. As a pilot, he flew a variety of aircraft. His last duty assignment was the Pentagon, and he retired from the Air Force in 1969. His military decorations included a Distinguished Flying Cross.

In retirement, Col. Berodt managed a country club in western North Carolina, then returned to this area in the early 1970s.

Survivors include his wife, Lois Berodt of Columbia; two children, James Howard Berodt of Greenbelt, and Jane Santy of Silver Spring; and five grandchildren.


USIA Official

Henry Prager, 85, a retired State Department Foreign Service officer and U.S. Information Agency official, died of a pulmonary embolism Sept. 26 at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. He lived in Washington.

Mr. Prager, who was a native of New Mexico, attended the New Mexico Military Academy before coming here in 1943. During World War II, he worked for the Office of War Information.

He then joined the State Department and worked for the USIA from 1953 until retiring in 1959. Overseas assignments took him to Europe, the Philippines and Lebanon. From 1959 until retiring again in 1977, he was a consultant.

Mr. Prager had been a member of St. Albans Episcopal Church in Washington since 1943. He was a 32nd degree Mason.

Survivors include his wife of 58 years, the former Lynn Ellis, of Washington; a daughter, Stephana P. Ney of Rockville; and a grandson.