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Michael Heyman, ex-Smithsonian chief, dies

WASHINGTON -- I. Michael Heyman's opening days in 1994 as the first nonscientist to lead the Smithsonian Institution were spent confronting controversy over a planned exhibition of the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb.

Veterans groups, some historians and members of Congress fiercely protested the National Air and Space Museum's planned display of the B-29 Enola Gay, saying it was too sympathetic to the Japanese.

Heyman, who died on Saturday at age 81, eventually canceled the exhibit -- but still showed the plane in one of the most visited museums.

Heyman, who had also been chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, a law professor and city planner, died at his Berkeley home after a long battle with emphysema. The Smithsonian and the university announced his death Monday.

John Cummins, who served as Heyman's university chief of staff, said Heyman used his humor and long experience in academia to navigate controversies. Heyman had keen political sensibilities and knew how to handle competing interests, such as when he pushed affirmative action while raising money from parents who felt their children were being kept out of Berkeley by the policy, Cummins said.

Heyman was born in New York City in 1930. He studied government at Dartmouth College and earned his law degree at Yale. In 1958 and 1959, he was chief law clerk to Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren.

A memorial service for Heyman will be held on campus, but the date hasn't been set, the university said.

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