updated 7/13/2005 7:07:25 PM ET 2005-07-13T23:07:25

Arthur Fletcher, an adviser to Republican presidents and an early booster of affirmative action, died of natural causes Tuesday at his Washington home. He was 80.

Fletcher served as an adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

As an official in Nixon’s Labor Department, Fletcher in 1969 administered the “revised Philadelphia plan,” which set and enforced equal opportunity employment standards for companies with federal contracts and their labor unions.

After that, Ford, Reagan and Bush appointed him to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which he chaired from 1990 to 1993.

Fletcher, dubbed “the father of affirmative action,” was also a delegate to the United Nations, executive director of the United Negro College Fund, owner of consulting and food-services businesses and the first black candidate for statewide office in Washington.

He was born in Phoenix, Ariz., his father a career military man. He grew up in California, Arizona, Oklahoma and Kansas, graduating in 1950 from Washburn University in Topeka.

Fletcher was shot in World War II, where he fought in an Army tanker division for Gen. George Patton, friends said.

Before entering politics, he was a defensive end for the Baltimore Colts — one of that professional football team’s first black players — and the Los Angeles Rams.

Fletcher is survived by his wife, Bernyce Hassan-Fletcher, three children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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