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Former AT&T Chairman John deButts Dead At 71

December 18, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ John D. deButts, who led American Telephone & Telegraph Co. when the government launched its antitrust case against the phone giant, died Wednesday, the company announced.

DeButts died of heart failure at a Winchester, Va., hospital, AT&T said.

DeButts was chairman and chief executive from 1972 to 1979 of what then was the world’s largest company. He opposed efforts to break up AT&T and was reportedly dismayed by the 1984 settlement that split off the Bell System’s 23 operating companies.

DeButts, who lived in Upperville, Va., suffered from diabetes and had one leg amputated in recent years because of the condition. AT&T spokesman Walter Murphy said diabetes was not mentioned as a cause of his death.

A spokeswoman at Winchester Medical Center said deButts’ physician could not be reached for a statement.

The 42-year Bell System career of deButts began in 1936, when he was hired as a $100-a-month trainee in the traffic department of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co.

DeButts served as president of Illinois Bell Telephone Co. and later as executive vice president and then vice chairman of AT&T. He served as chairman and chief executive of the company from April 1972 until his retirement in February 1979, when he was succeeded by Charles Brown. Brown retired earlier this year.

According to AT&T, during deButts’ tenure the assets of the Bell System rose nearly 65 percent, earnings steadily increased and service problems of the early 1970s were overcome.

DeButts was born April 10, 1915, in Greensboro, N.C., and graduated from Virginia Military Institute in 1936 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

Survivors include his wife, Mrs. Gertrude deButts, two daughters, Mrs. Tyler R. Cain of Lake Forest, Ill., and Mrs. Collins Couch of San Antonio, Texas., and four grandchildren.

Funeral services were scheduled for Saturday at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville, Va.

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