Nathaniel Herman Goodrich, 89, a longtime Washington lawyer who also served as general counsel to the Federal Aviation Administration and Amtrak, died June 12 of congestive heart failure at his home in Chevy Chase.
In a career that spanned more than 60 years, Mr. Goodrich held a variety of prominent positions with the government. When still in his twenties, he worked behind the scenes to silence the radio demagogue Father Charles E. Coughlin, a Catholic priest who spouted virulent denunciations of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Jewish people in his nationwide broadcasts of the 1930s.
When working as a staff lawyer for the American Jewish Committee in New York from 1938 to 1941, Mr. Goodrich compiled a study of Coughlin's broadcasts, rebutting his anti-Semitic claims. His findings were published in a pamphlet called "Father Coughlin: His 'Facts' and Arguments."
In the early 1940s, the National Association of Broadcasters pulled Coughlin's program off the air, the Post Office barred his newspaper from the mails and the Catholic Church ordered him to stop talking about politics or risk being defrocked.
"All you had to do was listen to those broadcasts," said Mr. Goodrich's brother, Joseph Goldreich of Mount Kisco, N.Y. "It was nauseating. My brother was in a position to do something about it."
In the latter half of the 1950s, after holding several Defense Department positions, Mr. Goodrich rejoined the American Jewish Committee as Washington counsel and also had a private law practice. In 1962, he became general counsel to the Federal Aviation Administration and helped supervise the construction of Dulles International Airport. From 1971 to 1975, he was chairman of the atomic safety and licensing board of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
He became vice president and general counsel of the National Railroad Passenger Corp., better known as Amtrak, in 1975. He held a simultaneous post as chairman of the board of Chicago's Union Station Corp. beginning in 1977. After retiring from those positions in 1979, Mr. Goodrich had a private law practice in Washington until 1986, specializing in transportation and regulatory law. From 1986 until his death, he was a counselor with the Washington firm of Seyfarth, Shaw, Fairweather & Geraldson.
Mr. Goodrich was born Nathaniel Goldreich in New York and attended the City College of New York. He changed his name when he was a student at Cornell University, from which he received a bachelor's degree in 1934 and a law degree in 1936.
In July 1941, Mr. Goodrich, who had been commissioned an artillery officer in 1934, was recalled to active duty by the Army Reserve. He was transferred to Washington and assigned to an intelligence unit with the Army Air Corps (later the Army Air Forces), working as an assistant to the undersecretary of war.
Among his duties was maintaining the secrecy of the Manhattan Project, the government's classified program to build atomic weapons during the war. He never explained how he kept the lid on America's nuclear secret, then or at any time later in life.
After leaving the Army with the rank of lieutenant colonel, Mr. Goodrich was legal adviser to a variety of governmental bodies, including two presidential panels, the scientific research board and the special board of inquiry on air safety. In 1948, he became a lawyer with the Defense Department and held a variety of positions at the Pentagon, including special assistant to the secretary of defense, until 1956. Among his other duties, he helped draft the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which determined the military and civilian uses of nuclear energy in the United States.
He was a member of several legal organizations and clubs, including the Metropolitan, Cosmos, Wings and Army and Navy clubs, as well as Woodmont Country Club. Mr. Goodrich enjoyed classical music and frequently attended performances of the National Symphony and Washington Opera. He played tennis until he was 87 and golf until three weeks before his death.
His wife of 47 years, Marjorie Rosenthal Goodrich, died in 2002.
Survivors include two sons, Robert Dunbar Goodrich of Washington and Thomas Neil Goodrich of New York; and a brother.