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Bush called Eagleburger “one of the most capable and respected diplomats our foreign service ever produced, and I will be ever grateful for his wise, no-nonsense counsel during those four years of historic change in our world.”

In a statement, Bush said that “during one of the tensest moments of the Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein began attacking Israel with Scud missiles trying cynically and cruelly to bait them into the conflict, we sent Larry to Israel to preserve our coalition. It was an inordinately complex and sensitive task, and his performance was nothing short of heroic.”

Baker said Eagleburger “was a legend in the U.S. Foreign Service, a consummate professional who served his country expertly and with great dignity as a selfless diplomat.” He said his former colleague was “superb at divining trouble and heading it off. That’s why he became the first Foreign Service officer in history to rise to deputy secretary of state and later to secretary of state. Simply stated, Larry Eagleburger was as good as they come — loyal, hard-working and intelligent, a trifecta for an American diplomat.”

In what may have been his last public appearance, a clearly frail Eagleburger regaled a crowd of State Department officials last month, including Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright with stories about his early days in the foreign service during the Kennedy administration.

It came May 18 at an event to mark the 50th anniversary of the State Department’s Operations Center, the department’s 24-hour, seven-day-a-week nerve center. Eagleburger had many in the audience rolling with laughter as he recalled manic confusion among Kennedy’s national security advisers during the Bay of Pigs invasion that led then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk to order the creation of a round-the-clock clearing house for information coming in from around the world.

“Larry believed in the strength of America’s values, and he fought for them around the world,” Clinton said Saturday. “He was outspoken, but always the consummate diplomat. Even in retirement, Larry remained a staunch advocate for the causes he believed in. He never stopped caring, contributing, and speaking out.”

Obama called Eagleburger a statesman who “devoted his life to the security of our nation and to strengthening our ties with allies and partners.”

For five years, before joining the first Bush administration in 1989 as deputy secretary of state, Eagleburger was president of Kissinger Associates, offering companies advice on international politics and cashing in on his connections as did Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft, a former national security adviser.

The job paid handsomely. He earned more than $1 million in salary and severance payments in his final year.

After Bush’s defeat in 1992, Eagleburger took a similar job with a law firm headed by former Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn. Eagleburger’s intimate knowledge of the issues and the key players was a valuable commodity

Eagleburger chaired the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, which sought to settle decades-old claims brought by victims of Nazi brutality whose right to insurance settlements had been violated during World War II.

Eagleburger served in 2006 on the Iraq Study Group, the blue-ribbon panel headed by Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., that called for a gradual troop pullback and stepped-up diplomacy to help extricate the U.S. from Iraq.

“When I was asked to do this by Jim Baker, I was not at all sure that I was going to want to do it because I had really serious doubts as to whether bipartisanship could prevail in this sort of a session,” Eagleburger said at the time.

In 2008, he was a prominent supporter of Arizona Sen. John McCain’s presidential candidacy. He did tell an NPR interviewer that McCain’s running-mate, Sarah Palin, wasn’t up to the task of taking over the presidency in a crisis but could become “adequate.”

Over the years, a sense of humor served Eagleburger well.

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