William A. Wilson, 95, a member of President Ronald Reagan's "kitchen cabinet" and the first U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, died early Saturday in Carmel Valley, Calif., where he had a home, his daughter Marcia Wilson Hobbs said. He had cancer.
Mr. Wilson made his name as a manufacturer of oil-drilling equipment, a cattle rancher, a real estate developer, and an investor. He was a member of the inner circle of wealthy advisers who persuaded Reagan to run for California governor in 1966 and then helped guide his political campaigns.
In 1981, soon after he was sworn in as president, Reagan named Mr. Wilson, a Catholic convert, as his personal envoy to the Vatican.
The United States had not had formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See since 1867, when Congress repealed money for the consular post, citing a need to separate church and state. Admiring Pope John Paul II and sharing his commitment to eradicating communism in Eastern Europe, Reagan restored diplomatic ties in 1984.