Roger Fisher, creator of The Advocates on pubTV, dies at 90

By Dru Sefton

Roger Fisher, a Harvard law professor who developed the Emmy-and Peabody Award–winning public TV program The Advocates, died Aug. 25 in Hanover, N.H. He was 90.

His son Elliott told the New York Times that the cause of death was complications from dementia.

Roger Fisher in his office at Harvard. (Photo: Harvard Law School)

Fisher proposed The Advocates in 1969, as a co-production of WGBH in Boston and KCET in Los Angeles. The show was one of the first projects at WGBH for Peter McGhee, who went on to become an influential head of national productions at the station.

Fisher served as executive producer for the weekly debate-style public affairs program through 1974, and again for its bi-weekly revamp from 1978 to ’79. In 1970, he interviewed President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the president of Egypt, for a segment on the show. During their talk, Nasser hinted at a willingness to accept a ceasefire with Israel in the conflict along the Suez Canal. Fisher brought the interview to the attention of Undersecretary of State Elliot Richardson, and a ceasefire was later negotiated.

Fisher co-authored the 1981 best seller Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. He put his expertise in mediation to work in resolving international issues of the day. Fisher helped draft the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel, and played a role in ending apartheid in South Africa. He also co-founded the Harvard Negotiation Project, now the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

He was born May 28, 1922, in Winnetka, Ill., to Katharine Dummer Fisher and William T. Fisher. He volunteered for the Army in World War II, serving from 1942–46. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1948 and worked on the Marshall Plan. He returned to join the Harvard law faculty in 1960.

In addition to Elliott, Fisher is survived by son Peter; two brothers, John and Frank; and five grandchildren. His wife of 62 years, the former Caroline Speer, died two years ago.

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