1 Dec 2003, Tennesean.com

Nashville native Gus Weiss, adviser to 4 presidents, dies

Staff Writer

Gus Weiss, a Nashville native who advised four presidents, served on the National Security Council for 16 years and won numerous awards for his foreign policy and intelligence-gathering skills, has died. He was 72.

Mr. Weiss died Tuesday in Washington, D.C. The circumstances surrounding his death could not be confirmed last night.

Friends of Mr. Weiss expressed shock at his death.

''He was a brilliant, brilliant guy and was always very focused,'' said Audrey Wolf, who grew up with Mr. Weiss in Nashville and was a neighbor at the Watergate complex where Mr. Weiss lived in Washington.

Driven by an insatiable intellectual curiosity and a desire to solve foreign policy problems, Mr. Weiss devoted his life to his career, friends recalled. He served as assistant to the secretary of defense for space policy and on the Pentagon Defense Science Board and the U.S. Intelligence Board under President Carter. Mr. Weiss was a foreign affairs officer and member of the National Security Council under Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan.

In 1976, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor award for his work in facilitating a joint venture between General Electric Co.'s aircraft engine division and the French jet engine company SNECMA that led to the creation of the best-selling jet engine in aviation history, the CFM56.

Mr. Weiss also was involved in numerous intelligence projects, and friends said there were many aspects of his career he could never discuss with them.

''He was wired into the intelligence community, and there were a lot of mystical secrets we weren't privy to,'' said Harris Gilbert, a Nashville attorney who had been friends with Mr. Weiss since childhood. ''He was very interested in diplomatic strategy and was very, very opposed to the Iraq war. It was the first military action he ever opposed, but he believed we shouldn't go to war in the Middle East without knowing what we were getting into.''

Other friends said Mr. Weiss remained politically neutral despite spending much of his career in government service. ''He just devoted himself to academia and public service,'' said Jane Eskind, a social activist here and former Tennessee political candidate, who also had been friends with Mr. Weiss since childhood.

''The thing about him that was most remarkable was that he remained a totally apolitical public servant in a very partisan environment.''

After graduating from Vanderbilt University, Mr. Weiss worked for a year at his family's upscale clothing store here, Gus Mayer.

He then went on to earn a master's degree in business administration from Harvard University and a doctorate in economics from New York University.

During his career in government service, Mr. Weiss won the Intelligence Medal of Merit, the Exceptional Service Medal from NASA and the Cipher Medal from the National Security Agency. He published several papers on the intelligence and engineering projects he worked on after information about the projects was declassified.

Survivors include Lillian Weiss, his 100-year-old aunt from New York City, and several cousins.

A funeral for Mr. Weiss will be held at 1 p.m. today at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home in New York City. He will be buried at a family cemetery plot in Brooklyn.