Leslie Newton Gay Jr., a retired federal Bureau of Indian Affairs official and outdoorsman, died of heart failure Saturday on his 71st birthday while vacationing in Pittsfield, Mass.
As the bureau's chief for tribal governments, Mr. Gay played a key role in the implementation of the 1968 Indian Civil Rights Act and was active in promoting self-government for Indians.
He was an expert on Indian tribal governments, and his efforts led to federal recognition of many tribes, including the Gay Head Indians on Martha's Vineyard.
Mr. Gay was born in Baltimore, the son of Dr. Leslie Newton Gay and Julia Adele Griffith. His father was the discoverer of Dramamine and founder of the Center for Asthma and Allergic Diseases at the Johns Hopkins medical school.
He attended McDonogh School and was a 1941 graduate of the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn. Mr. Gay interrupted his
studies at Yale University to volunteer for the Army in 1941 and served in the North African campaign and in Europe before he was discharged as a captain.
He then returned to his studies at Yale and graduated in 1948. He was a member of the first graduating class of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton in 1950.
Mr. Gay worked for the State Department and then the CIA. In 1963, he transferred to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and moved to McLean, Va.
He retired in 1975 and moved back to Gay Willows, the family home near Lake Roland where he was reared.
In retirement, he was a consultant to Sotheby's Inc. as an appraiser of American Indian art.
His leisure activities included gunsmithing and restoring cedar and canvas canoes. He also enjoyed cabinetmaking, taxidermy and beekeeping. He often visited a cabin he built in Ontario in the 1960s and a vacation home on Martha's Vineyard.
He was a past president of the Woodpeckers, a cabinetmakers' club, and chairman of the board of trustees of the National Colonial Dames of America in the State of Maryland, and was active in the Mount Clare Plantation Foundation.
Mr. Gay married the former Jessie Kent Harper of Baltimore in 1943. She died in 1988.
A memorial service for Mr. Gay will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St.
He is survived by three sons, Leslie N. Gay III of Los Angeles, John L. Gay of Clifton, Va., and George E. H. Gay of Easton; two daughters, Katherine C. Gay of Baltimore and Sarah J. Levin of Tijeras, N.M.; and eight grandchildren.
The family suggested memorial contributions to the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Box 494, Vineyard Haven, Mass. 02568, or to the Mount Clare Plantation Foundation, Mount Clare Museum
House, 1500 Washington Blvd., Baltimore 21230.