Mr. Nolan’s specialties as a lawyer included environmental cases and the rights of whistleblowing federal employees. He represented oil companies building the Alaska pipeline in the 1970s.
In 2001, Mr. Nolan returned to Cuba for a 40th anniversary observance of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. He had lunch with Castro twice, he said, and talked to him a few more times. The Cuban leader sent him a box of Cuban cigars.
In the 1990s, he was the mediator in a tangled family dispute involving multimillionaire discount retailer Herbert H. Haft, Haft’s wife, Gloria, and their children.
“There was yelling, tipping over of water pitchers,” Mr. Nolan said in his interview with Washington Lawyer, “a venting of a whole lifetime of suppressed feelings.”
Five decades later, Mr. Nolan “still walked with an air of authority and the bearing of a 22-year-old Marine,” said a law partner, Roger E. Warin.
He graduated from law school in 1955, then served a year as clerk to Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark. He joined Steptoe & Johnson in 1956 and would continue his association with the firm until 2013.
The two lawyers met Castro during several visits to Cuba over an extended period, and Mr. Nolan facilitated the procurement of about $50 million in medical supplies in exchange for the prisoners’ release.
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Survivors include his wife of 67 years, Joan Dobbins Nolan of Bethesda; four children, Carol N. Klatt of Buck Hills Falls, Pa., Kelly N. Spencer and Patricia N. McNeill, both of Bethesda, and Richard C. Nolan of Albany, N.Y.; and eight grandchildren. A son, John E. Nolan III, died in 1980.