Hal Riney dies at 75


SAN FRANCISCO -- Hal Riney, the advertising executive who created and read the script for the famous "Morning in America" campaign advertisement for President Reagan, died Monday at his home in San Francisco, surrounded by family. He was 75.

The cause was cancer, a spokeswoman for Publicis & Hal Riney, his former advertising agency, said.

In 1984, the Seattle native joined Reagan's so-called Tuesday Team, a collection of campaign professionals put together to re-elect the popular president, said Jeff Goodby of San Francisco agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

It was Riney's own voice heard in the Tuesday Team ad that began, "It's morning in America." Riney created a campaign that depicted a happy, safe U.S., asking why the country would want to return to a time before Reagan's election.

Riney also lent his voice to other advertising spots, including one for California's Crocker National Bank in the mid-1960s. The Paul Williams tune "We've Only Just Begun," written for a Crocker commercial, later was a hit for the Carpenters.

Riney opened the San Francisco office of Ogilvy & Mather in 1976 and went on to create three of the 100 campaigns selected by Advertising Age as the best of the 20th century, according to Goodby, a longtime friend and advertising colleague.

In 1985, Riney bought the Ogilvy & Mather office and renamed it Hal Riney & Partners. Not long after, he introduced General Motors' Saturn brand to the American public in what became the most successful new model launch in GM history. Hal Riney & Partners was sold in 2003 to the Publicis Group and renamed Publicis & Hal Riney.

In 1969, Riney and lifelong friend Dick Snider wrote and directed "Somebody's Waiting," a documentary about patients at a Sonoma County mental hospital. The film, shot in their spare time, was nominated for an Academy Award that year.

An avid outdoorsman, Riney traveled to Norway, Alaska, the Western states and Honduras. On a trip to Honduras in 1982, Riney's Sahsa Airlines flight was hijacked on the runway in Tegucigalpa. Honduran rebels with semi-automatic pistols and bombs rigged with dynamite held the plane for a full day until, sensing a moment of inattention, Riney opened a plane door and leaped to safety with several other passengers.

Riney was born July 17, 1932, and grew up in the shadow of Mount St. Helens, Goodby said. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Sutherland Riney, and two children from a previous marriage.