Obituary of the Day: William Fine

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New York Times obituaries editor Bill McDonald joins us every day during the drive to discuss one life featured in the obit page. Today: journalist and publisher William M. Fine, who helped shape New York's drug laws.

From the Obituary of William M. Fine

His biggest impact on history resulted from a dinner party conversation with Rockefeller in early 1972, according to Joseph E. Persico, a former Rockefeller aide, in his book “Imperial Rockefeller” (1982).

At that party, Mr. Persico wrote, Mr. Fine told Rockefeller that his son had been a drug addict and that he himself yearned to do something to fight addiction. He was already chairman of Phoenix House, a drug rehabilitation program.

Rockefeller suggested that Mr. Fine visit Japan, where there was very little addiction, and report to him. Rockefeller focused on one aspect of Mr. Fine’s report: Japan’s imposition of life sentences on drug dealers.

Mr. Fine praised the Japanese for being “willing to give up the soapbox movement on human rights in order to rid the public of the evil abuses of drugs.”

-- Read the full obituary here.