James C. McKay, 98, a Washington trial lawyer who as independent counsel investigated alleged influence-peddling in the Reagan administration in the 1980s, died Monday at his home in Chevy Chase, Md.

The cause was aspiration pneumonia, his son James C. McKay Jr. said.

A specialist in areas including antitrust law, Mr. McKay joined Covington & Burling in the 1940s, rose to partner, and practiced with that firm, the largest in Washington, for more than six decades.

He was a principal attorney for the NFL, one of the firm's most prominent clients, in antitrust and other matters. In the 1980s, he helped represent pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co. in high-profile litigation arising from deaths that were linked to the arthritis drug Oraflex.

His most public role came during his tenure as independent counsel.

He was appointed to the position in 1987 after the Justice Department requested a special prosecutor to investigate Lyn C. Nofziger, a longtime Reagan aide who served in the White House as assistant for political affairs and who was accused of conducting illegal lobbying activities after he left the administration in early 1982.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit selected Mr. McKay for the job, describing him as "an outstanding trial lawyer of wide experience," the New York Times reported at the time, and granted him broad authority to pursue questions that arose in the course of his investigation.

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 72 years, the former Mary Anne Hunter; children Patti McKay and Robert H. McKay; and three grandchildren. - Washington Post