Milton D. Stewart, 82, a well-known advocate for small businesses in Washington who was known as "Mr. Small Business," died of pneumonia Nov. 5 at St. Luke's Hospital in Phoenix.
Mr. Stewart was appointed in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter as the government's first chief advocate for small business. He organized three White House conferences on small business, in 1980, 1986 and 1995. His career took him from Wall Street to the editorship of Inc. magazine, to academic posts and into the White House and the halls of Congress.
As the Small Business Association's chief counsel for advocacy, he championed small solar firms, independent gas stations and patent-seeking inventors and argued against government regulation.
In 1980, when a study found that time-consuming, duplicative but legally required government forms cost the nation's 10 million small businesses $12.7 billion a year, Mr. Stewart appeared at a Senate hearing to urge congressional action.
"Much of the sense of being overwhelmed by paperwork that small business feels comes from the seeming unpredictability, aimlessness and lack of apparent control of the paperwork flood," he said. "This is where the psychological crunch on the entrepreneurial manager is greatest -- the sense that he does not know what will hit him from the government in the next mail."
He held the government job until 1981, when he formed the Small Business High Technology Institute, a nonprofit agency that promoted innovation in small businesses and fostered relationships between those firms and universities, large companies and the government.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Stewart received a bachelor's degree from New York University and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in 1945. He received a law degree from George Washington University in 1952.
During World War II, he worked in the Office of War Information in Washington, then served as research director for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which produced a 1948 report titled "To Secure These Rights." The report defined the nation's civil rights agenda for the next generation and proposed anti-lynching and anti-poll-tax laws, as well as strengthening the civil rights division of the Department of Justice.
Mr. Stewart then served as an administrative assistant to U.S. Rep. Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. (D-N.Y.), an analyst in the Bureau of the Budget, a special counsel to New York Gov. Averill Harriman and general counsel to the New York State Thruway Authority. He also worked in the private banking division of a New York investment banking firm in the mid-1950s.
He was a partner in a Wall Street law firm from 1961 to 1965, when he became president of two venture capital companies that later would play a part in his nomination for the SBA job.
He served a year each as president of the National Association of Small Business Investment Companies and the National Small Business Association. In addition to editing Inc. magazine in the early 1980s, he was a radio commentator on business. He served on Columbia University's Graduate Faculty of Public Law and was an assistant professor at the New School for Social Research.
Mr. Stewart's nomination to the SBA job ran into criticism after it was shown that in 1974 he signed a consent decree with the Securities and Exchange Commission and was suspended from investment activities for 60 days for violating SEC rules. The incident involved whether he adequately advised shareholders of the risks involved in an affiliated firm's building lease. His nomination, however, was supported by 125 organizations and individuals, including all the former heads of the SBA.
He moved from Washington to Phoenix in 1981.
His marriage to Dorothy Stewart ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 24 years, Joan Graves Stewart of Phoenix; two daughters from the first marriage, Ricky Perkins of Lancaster, Calif., and Abigail Stewart of Ann Arbor, Mich.; a son from his first marriage, David Stewart of Garrett Park; eight grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.