Arthur Fletcher, an adviser to Republican presidents and the first black candidate for statewide office in Washington state, died of natural causes yesterday at his Washington, D.C. home. He was 80.

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Arthur Fletcher, an adviser to Republican presidents and the first black candidate for statewide office in Washington state, died of natural causes yesterday at his Washington, D.C. home. He was 80.

Mr. Fletcher, an early booster of affirmative action, served as an adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

As an official in Nixon’s Labor Department in 1969, Mr. Fletcher 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.

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Mr. 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 state.

In 1968, then-Washington state Gov. Dan Evans favored him as candidate for lieutenant governor, although he ultimately lost to incumbent John Cherberg.

Evans later hired Mr. Fletcher as his special assistant for urban affairs.

“He was a great adviser to me,” Evans said. “There were just a lot of closed doors at that time and he was determined to open them, and open them in a way that would not create antagonism and enmity but open them in a way that would make people feel good about what they were doing.”

In 1967, he became the first black person elected to the Pasco, Wash., City Council.

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.

Mr. 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.