Coleman Selby Hicks, 61, a lawyer with the Washington firm of Covington & Burling for more than 20 years who also worked briefly in the Nixon and Carter administrations, died Aug. 3 at his home in Boston of complications from cancer and a massive stroke.

He had moved to Boston in 1995 to join a small manufacturing company as general counsel and chief financial officer.

Mr. Hicks was born in Columbus, Ohio, and grew up in Mason City, Iowa. He was a 1965 graduate of Princeton University, where he roomed with Bill Bradley, the future professional basketball star, New Jersey senator and Democratic presidential candidate.

Although the two talked only occasionally in the years since Princeton, Mr. Hicks sometimes was quoted in profiles of his famous roommate, particularly in 2000, when Bradley was battling Vice President Al Gore for the nomination.

Mr. Hicks usually backed Democrats, including Bradley.

"Coleman was a wonderful friend," Bradley said in a phone interview from California. "He had a sharp sense of humor and was analytical in the best sense of the word."

Mr. Hicks graduated from Yale Law School in 1968, and in 1969 joined a four-year naval officers program in Washington, where he worked in the judge advocate general's office. In the summer of 1971, he was sent to Newport, R.I., to teach at the Naval War College.

He left that post a few weeks later to become a personal assistant to Henry Kissinger, who at the time was assistant to President Richard M. Nixon for national security affairs. He succeeded his friend and fellow Navy man David Halperin, who recommended Mr. Hicks; Kissinger preferred having Navy men in the position, although the job, as Mr. Hicks's wife Jutta Hicks recalled, involved such mundane tasks as scheduling, making personal arrangements and basically taking care of whatever Kissinger needed.

Mr. Hicks left the post in June 1972, a week before the Watergate break-in, to join Covington & Burling, where as a general litigator he was involved in a wide variety of cases.

In 1979, he became the general counsel of the Navy under President Jimmy Carter.

Two years later, he returned to Covington & Burling, where for the next 14 years he was involved with cases involving tax matters, securities law, arbitration, environmental issues, constitutional law and other areas. In 1987, he wrote the brief for Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, a case that reversed a finding that a high school principal had violated students' First Amendment rights by striking stories from the school newspaper. In 1992, he was able to get a Mississippi death penalty case vacated in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

John Paul Garber, now a retired banker, met both Mr. Hicks and Bradley when all three took part in a conference of high school students involved in student government. The three became Princeton roommates.

"Coleman believed in the power of institutions and spent a good part of his life with quintessential U.S. institutions, whether higher education at Princeton and Yale, the U.S. Navy, the Justice Department or a Washington law firm," Garber said in a telephone interview. "He always brought something to the table, whatever the institution happened to be. He was an able, decent guy."

William Iverson, a law school classmate and a former colleague at Covington and Burling, said: "He was outgoing, irreverent, enthusiastic. He took himself much less seriously than most lawyers do."

In 1995, Mr. Hicks moved to Boston, where he joined Oak Industries, a small company founded by a friend, William Antle III; the two had worked together in the Navy general counsel's office. The Waltham-based company supplied broadband networks, frequency control devices and fiber-optic components to the telecommunications industry.

Mr. Hicks joined the company as general counsel and head of the frequency control group and became chief financial officer. Oak Industries was acquired by Corning Industries in 2000, about the time doctors diagnosed Mr. Hicks's cancer.

Survivors include his wife of 36 years, Jutta Bielefeldt Hicks of Boston; two children, Toni P. Hicks of Newton, Mass., and Christian B. Hicks of Boston; his father, Jack W. Hicks of Naples, Fla.; and a brother, James Titus Hicks of Potomac.