Published On: Wed, Sep 11th, 2019

Frederic Pryor, Player in ‘Bridge of Spies’ Case, Dies at 86

On Feb. 10, 1962, after nearly six months in jail, Mr. Pryor was driven to Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin and released. The Powers-for-Abel swap occurred at Glienicke Bridge, a border crossing between East and West Berlin.

When he returned to the United States, Mr. Pryor was wearing the same suit he had been captured in. But now its buttons were gone and its fabric threadbare. At a news conference, he told reporters he would not criticize East Germany to score propaganda points.

“After tomorrow,” he said, “forget me.”

Frederic LeRoy Pryor was born on April 23, 1933, in Owosso, Mich., but grew up mainly in Mansfield, Ohio, where his father, Millard, was chairman of the Barnes Manufacturing Company, and later worked with the United States Agency for International Development. His mother, Mary (Shapiro) Pryor, was a journalist before becoming a homemaker.

After graduating from Oberlin College with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry — a subject he came to dislike after spending a summer working for Dow Chemical — Frederic took a year off to travel, living on a commune in Paraguay and working on a freighter to Europe.

The trips initiated his interest in economics, which he studied at Yale, where he earned a master’s degree and the Ph.D. he would receive after leaving East Germany.

Mr. Pryor wanted to work for the government, but his arrest on an espionage charge made him unwanted. At General Motors, where he had been a consultant before his arrest, an official said he would not consider him because of his prison record.