Reagan's secretary of state Alexander Haig dead at 85

Former U.S. secretary of state, Republican stalwart, general and businessman Alexander Haig died Saturday. He was 85.

Former U.S. secretary of state, Republican stalwart, general and businessman Alexander Haig died Saturday. He was 85.

Haig's family said he died in a Baltimore hospital from complications from an infection. He had been ill for some time.

Haig, who served in the U.S. army for 20 years before moving to the White House staff in 1968, was famous for his response after a gunman shot then-president Ronald Reagan in March 1981.

"As of now, I am in control here in the White House, pending the return of the vice-president," Haig said on television.

He said he was intending to reassure Americans amid the crisis — Reagan survived the shooting — but Haig's comment is remembered as a huge gaffe. Haig was actually fourth in line to succeed to the presidency; ahead of him were the vice-president, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the president pro-tempore of the Senate (usually the longest-serving senator of the majority party).

John Hinckley, Jr., was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting of the president and three other people.

Haig was a top adviser to three presidents. As Richard Nixon's chief of staff in 1973, he helped the president prepare his defence for his role in the Watergate scandal.

After Nixon resigned, president Gerald Ford appointed Gen. Haig as supreme allied commander of NATO forces in Europe and commander-in-chief of U.S. forces in Europe. 

 In 1979, he retired from the army to become president of United Technologies Corp.

Haig was secretary of state in the Reagan administration in 1981 and 1982.

With files from the Associated Press