Richard T. Greer, 76, who was legislative director for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill from 1982 until retiring in 1988, died of leukemia Jan. 13 at his home in Arlington.
He had lived off and on in Arlington since the 1950s.
As a lobbyist for NAMI, he was a leader in the drive to focus the government's research efforts on the biological basis for mental illness, and he also advanced the cause of treatment.
Mr. Greer was born in Chatfield, Minn., and raised in Zumbro Falls, Minn. He received a bachelor's degree from St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., and a master's degree in political science from Georgetown University.
He served in the Army Air Forces in Europe during World War II as a tail gunner on B-17 "Flying Fortress" bombers.
In the 1950s, he served on the staff of Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minn.) and was deputy librarian of the Senate Library. In the 1960s, he was a deputy division director of the Economic Development Administration. In the 1970s, he worked for Sen. Quentin Burdick (D-N.D.) as staff director of the Senate subcommittee on regional and community economic development, overseeing anti-recession initiatives.
As NAMI's first legislative director, Mr. Greer lobbied for increased funding for treatment and community services.
"Dick Greer was among the first to recognize that with proper treatment, persons can and do recover from mental illness, and he tirelessly championed their rights to homes, jobs and dignity," James Howe, a former NAMI president, said in a statement.
Mr. Greer became active in advocacy for the mentally ill because of a son's condition. He served in the late 1990s as president of NAMI-Virginia. He also was a member of the Arlington Community Services Board from 1993 to 1999.
His first marriage, to Alyce Greer, ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 21 years, Betsy Greer of Arlington; four daughters, Teresa Greer of Los Angeles, Gretchen Eden of Mountain View, Calif., Martha Averso of Harrisburg, Pa., and Sarah Snowden of Fairfax County; two sons, Timothy, of Virginia Beach, and Richard Jr., of Arlington; and seven grandchildren.