William Haddad, a civic evangelist who helped streamline the sale of cheaper generic drugs to American consumers and pare the price of AIDS treatment globally to a dollar a day, died on April 30 at his home in Poughquag, N.Y., in the Hudson Valley. He was 91.
His daughter Lulie Haddad said the cause was congestive heart failure.
Armed with evidence he had amassed as director of the New York State Assembly’s Office of Oversight and Analysis, Mr. Haddad persuaded the Legislature and Gov. Hugh L. Carey in 1974 to let doctors prescribe equivalent generic drugs in place of higher-priced brand names.
Taking his campaign nationwide as chairman of what was then called the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, an industry group, and his own drug company, Mr. Haddad was instrumental in shepherding landmark legislation in 1984 that removed longstanding legal and regulatory hurdles to the manufacture and sale of generic drugs.
The law, sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, and Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, restored patent protection to encourage pharmaceutical companies to invest in research and development of new products while making it easier for makers of generic drugs to get them approved by federal regulators who had already licensed their brand-name equivalents.
In 2001, Mr. Haddad worked with Cipla, a drug company in India, to make way for the use of generic AIDS medicines and to reduce the price of lifesaving drug cocktails to $350 a year per patient, from as much as $15,000.
“As a volunteer he worked with Cipla to remove the barriers to the use of generic AIDS medicines,” Dr. Yusuf K. Hamied, chairman of Cipla, wrote in an email. “Between him, myself and Cipla, we jointly pioneered H.I.V./AIDS relief in Africa in the year 2001, which I genuinely believe saved million of lives over the years.”
Mr. Haddad never fulfilled his early ambition to become a nuclear physicist, lost his only campaign for elective office when he failed to unseat Representative Leonard Farbstein on Manhattan’s West Side, and admitted to being bamboozled by the charisma of John DeLorean, the Pontiac GTO designer whose own car company went bankrupt.
But Mr. Haddad left an imprint in almost every other phase of his peripatetic career. As a reporter, he and his colleagues were among the first critics to dent the armor of New York’s omnipotent power broker, Robert Moses.
Fresh from working on John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign, he helped launch the Peace Corps with its first director, R. Sargent Shriver. He helped elect Mario M. Cuomo governor of New York in 1982 with the title of campaign manager, reporting to Mr. Cuomo’s son Andrew, now the state’s governor.
Mr. Haddad conducted opposition research for Robert F. Kennedy when he challenged the liberal bona fides of Kenneth L. Keating, his Republican rival in the 1964 race for United States Senate in New York, and for John V. Lindsay, who was running for mayor against Abraham D. Beame the following year.
William Frederick Haddad was born on July 25, 1928, in Charlotte, N.C., to Esther (Nowack) Haddad, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, and Charles Haddad, an Egyptian Jew.
When his parents divorced during the Depression, Bill moved to Miami with his father, who ran an Arabic restaurant. In 1943, when he was 15, he faked his way into the Merchant Marine and served as a radio operator on an ammunition ship in the Pacific.
Mr. Haddad graduated from St. Petersburg Junior College in Florida, received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in 1954, and went to work for Senator Estes Kefauver, Democrat of Tennessee, whom he had encountered while working on campaigns for the Seafarers International Union.
In the 1960s, he served as associate director and inspector general of the Peace Corps and inspector general of the federal Office of Economic Opportunity, which oversaw the nation’s anti-poverty programs.
As a reporter for The New York Post (where he won a Polk Award in 1958 and shared another one in 1959 for exposing the city’s neglect of slums) and later The Herald Tribune (which was owned by his father-in-law, John Hay Whitney), Mr. Haddad Mr. Haddad uncovered a worldwide cartel that inflated the price of the antibiotic tetracycline. As a legislative watchdog in Albany, he revealed that major banks had sold off their holdings of municipal securities before their refusal to lend New York more money drove the city to the brink of bankruptcy in the mid-1970s.
His two marriages, to Kate Roosevelt — a granddaughter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the adopted daughter of Mr. Whitney — and to Noreen Walsh, ended in divorce.
In addition to Lulie Haddad, he is survived by two other daughters from his first marriage, Laura Whitney-Thomas and Andrea Haddad; two children from his second marriage, Amanda Reina and Robert Haddad; a stepson, Steve Walsh; 13 grandchildren; and two great-grandsons.
Mr. Haddad’s fans and foes characterized him as indefatigable, ambitious and stubbornly bare-faced, and said that in his earnestness he sometimes bit off more than he could chew.
His inability to say no, Nora Ephron wrote in New York Magazine in 1968, meant that at one point he “had to find a ghostwriter to ghostwrite a book which he’d promised to ghostwrite himself.” (Among the books he wrote himself was “Hard Driving: My Years With John Delorean” in 1985).
When he ran for Congress in 1964, he once recalled, “I ran with an Arab name in a Jewish district. My opponents had a picture of me superimposed on a camel, and I didn’t handle it well. I said if I had to be Jewish to win, it wasn’t worth winning.” He lost.
As a newly minted member of the city’s Board of Education in 1968, Mr. Haddad, in a candid comment on the quality of the school system, declared in a television interview: “I wouldn’t put my kids in the public school system. I’d hock my suit, my car and my shoes to get them into a decent school.” (In reality he would not have had to hock anything; he understated his finances running a company that monitored poverty programs.)
“I’m a provocateur,” he said. “I learned that from Estes Kefauver. I used to ask him, ‘Why do you get into all these battles?’ and he would say, ‘Never let one go by.’ I wish I could. I wish I could learn to keep my mouth shut. But I can’t.”
Mr. Haddad played so many roles that to some he was a Zelig-like enigma.
Along the way, he started The Manhattan Tribune, a weekly newspaper, in 1968 and recruited Roy Innis, the chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, as a co-publisher — to provide a biracial perspective. In the New York magazine profile, Mr. Innis described their relationship as “symbiotic pragmatic.” Then he paused.
“What did you say this article was going to be about?” Mr. Innis asked the writer.
“Haddad, who he is, what he wants.”
“Well,” Mr. Innis replied, “when you find out, let me know.”