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Lary Lewman, voice-over artist for Democrats, dead at 76

Lary Lewman, who entertained Baltimore children as Pete the Pirate on an afternoon television program and who later became the preferred voice-over artist for thousands of Democratic political commercials, died July 11 at his home in the Howard County community of Clarksville, Md. He was 76.

He had Parkinson's disease, said his son, Lance Lewman.

Early in his career, Lewman had ambitions of being a stage actor before turning to television. He donned a false beard and a black hat with a skull-and-crossbones emblem to create the role of Pete the Pirate for a kids' show on Baltimore's WBAL-TV (Channel 11) in the early 1960s.

He was the host of "Consumer Survival Kit," a syndicated TV program produced by Maryland Public Television in the 1970s, but by 1976 Lewman began to focus almost exclusively on his career as a voice-over actor.

He was the announcer for hundreds of commercials and industrial films and narrated documentaries for the Discovery Channel and National Geographic. But he found his steadiest work as the anonymous voice speaking on TV commercials for every Democratic presidential candidate from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton.

"He's about the best voice in town," Democratic political strategist Mandy Grunwald told The Washington Post in 2000. "He . . . always has a way of making complicated things about policy or people sound logical, or natural, and that's not easy."

Lewman praised Carter as "a solid man in a sensitive job." While pitching Clinton's re-election in 1996, Lewman said, "This is the America not of our dreams, but of our making."

He was the spokesman for hundreds of candidates. In 1982 alone, Lewman announced ads for Michael Dukakis, then a candidate for governor of Massachusetts, and Democratic senatorial candidates Frank Lautenberg in New Jersey, Bob Graham in Florida, James Sasser in Tennessee, Bob Kerrey in Nebraska, Quentin Burdick in North Dakota and Thomas Daschle in South Dakota.

For someone identified with political campaigns - and Democrats, in particular - Lewman was never an activist and knew surprisingly little about political life. "I tend to be apolitical,"Survivors include his wife of 55 years, Nancy Posey Lewman of Clarksville; two children, Lance Lewman of Ellicott City, Md., and Lori Lewman of Clarksville; a brother; and three grandchildren.Lary Lewman retired in 2000, before the tremors from Parkinson's disease, which he had for 19 years, began to affect his speaking voice.

In 2000, he summed up his contributions to the nation's political life. "I'm just an anonymous guy," he said. "I'm just the voice."

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