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About Jeb Stuart Magruder
Jeb Stuart Magruder (November 5, 1934 – May 11, 2014) was an American Presbyterian minister, businessman, civil servant and author. A Deputy Director of Richard Nixon's Committee to Re-Elect the President, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and served time in a federal prison as a result of his participation in the Watergate affair. Magruder's recollection of Richard Nixon's involvement in the burglary and subsequent coverup became clearer after leaving public life and entering retirement. He was a published author and spent a number of years speaking publicly about ethics and his role in the Watergate scandal. A Republican, Magruder was the second official in the administration of President Richard Nixon to plead guilty to charges of involvement with events resulting in the first Watergate burglary and the subsequent Watergate scandal (the first being Fred LaRue).
Jeb Stuart Magruder was born and grew up on Staten Island, New York, where he was an honor student at Curtis High School. Magruder was an excellent junior tennis player and swimmer, among the best in the greater New York area. He was educated at Williams College, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1958. He represented Williams on the varsity swimming team and set several regional records. After he began his business career, he earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Chicago. Magruder also served with the U.S. Army for 21 months, and was stationed in South Korea as a private first class; he did this during an intermission of his studies at Williams College.
Magruder was employed by IBM after college, and has said he did not enjoy it. He then moved to San Francisco, where he worked for the Crown Zellerbach firm, in their sales and marketing department, and later started his own consumer products company. He married Gail Nicholas on October 17, 1959, in Los Angeles. The couple has four children. They were divorced in 1986. Magruder married Patricia Newton on February 28, 1987, in Columbus, Ohio. They were divorced in May, 2003.
Business career and political organization
Magruder relocated his family to Kansas City when he was transferred for work. He became involved there as a campaign manager for the Republican Party during the 1960 election campaign, as chairman of an urban ward.
Magruder moved to Chicago for his MBA studies, and changed employers to the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. Magruder's first major political job was managing the successful 1962 primary campaign of Donald Rumsfeld for the Republican nomination, preparing for the congressional election in the 13th district of Illinois, to the United States House of Representatives. Rumsfeld subsequently won the congressional election. Magruder ended his consulting job later in 1962 to become employed by Jewel, a regional grocery firm, where he worked for three-and-a-half years, being promoted to merchandise manager.
Magruder became involved with the Illinois organization of the Barry Goldwater presidential campaign in late 1963, but became disillusioned with Goldwater's political views. He then worked briefly as campaign manager for Richard Ogilvie's 1966 campaign for president of the Cook County Board of Supervisors. The political workload, combined with work pressures, caused Magruder to end employment with Jewel and relocate to California in mid-1966, where he began a new job at a high salary with the Broadway Stores company. Magruder's next political involvement started in mid-1967, when he served as Southern California coordinator for the Richard Nixon presidential campaign, but left early in 1968 due to internal organizational problems.
Magruder entered partnership during early 1969 with two other entrepreneurs to start two new businesses, and became president and chief executive officer of these firms.
Joins White House staff
Magruder, while working in Los Angeles as a business executive, was approached through Republican acquaintances and asked to interview to join the White House staff. He was appointed to the White House staff in 1969 at age 34, as Special Assistant to the President. His pay decreased about 20 per cent due to his new job, and he left a home in Los Angeles to move to Washington, D.C. He worked for H.R. Haldeman and Herbert G. Klein, Nixon's Communications Director for the Executive Branch. Magruder's formal title was Deputy Director of White House Communications.
Committee to Re-elect the President
Magruder served in the White House until the spring of 1971, when he left to manage the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP), first as Director. He then became Deputy Director and assistant to CRP Director and Attorney General of the United States John N. Mitchell as the campaign approached in early 1972. With much of Mitchell's time being occupied by a scandal involving the ITT Corporation and by the illness of his wife Martha, Magruder assumed more of the duties of managing the CREEP. The campaign to re-elect the President was extraordinarily successful, winning 49 of 50 states, losing only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia to Democrat George McGovern; the final tally of Nixon's victory was 520 to 17 electoral votes, the third largest Electoral College (United States) margin in history, behind Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1936 victory over Alf Landon, (523 to 8) and Ronald Reagan's 1984 victory over Walter Mondale (525-13).
Manages 1973 Inaugural
With the campaign successful, Magruder worked from October 1972 on managing Richard Nixon's United States presidential inauguration ceremony and festival, in January 1973, as Inaugural Director. In March, 1973, he began a job as Director of Policy Planning with the United States Department of Commerce, but had to resign it soon afterwards, since Watergate began to become increasingly publicized after disclosures of perjury which had occurred during the original Watergate trial, in a letter to the Washington Star from Watergate burglar James McCord.
Involved with Watergate scandal
Magruder, in his role with CRP, became involved with the Watergate matters from an early stage, in many aspects of the planning, execution, and cover-up.
The Liddy plan
Magruder met with White House Counsel John Dean and John N. Mitchell (Attorney General of the United States and Director of CREEP) on January 27 and February 4, 1972, to review preliminary plans by G. Gordon Liddy (Counsel to CREEP) for intelligence gathering ideas for the 1972 campaign. The Watergate burglaries would evolve from those meetings. From the day they met in December, 1971, Magruder and Liddy (who had been hired by Mitchell and Dean) had a conflicted personal relationship.
Cooperates with prosecutors
During April 1973, Magruder began cooperating with federal prosecutors. In exchange, Magruder was allowed to plead guilty in August 1973 to a one-count indictment of conspiracy to obstruct justice, to defraud the United States, and to illegally eavesdrop on the Democratic Party's national headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. On May 21, 1974, Magruder was sentenced by Judge John Sirica to ten months to four years for his role in the failed burglary of Watergate and the following cover-up. In the end, he served just seven months of his sentence (in a Federal prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania). After his sentencing, Magruder said, "I am confident that this country will survive its Watergates and its Jeb Magruders."
Magruder was the only direct participant of the scandal to claim that President Nixon had specific prior knowledge of the Watergate burglary, and that Nixon actually directed Mitchell to proceed with the burglary, which was organized by G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt. Magruder originally testified that he knew nothing to indicate that President Nixon had any prior knowledge of the Watergate burglary. He also wrote in his book "An American Life: One Man's Road to Watergate" (1974), "I know nothing to indicate that Nixon was aware in advance of the plan to break into the Democratic headquarters. It is possible that Mitchell or Haldeman told him in advance, but I think it's likelier that they would not have mentioned it unless the operation had produced some results of interest to him." This book was published before Magruder's sentencing on May 21, and also before Nixon resigned as the President.
Magruder's story concerning the notorious meeting in Key Biscayne, Florida, with former Attorney General John Mitchell and Fred LaRue in late March 1972 has also changed. The plan to eavesdrop on the Watergate complex was approved by Mitchell soon following this meeting. In addition, Magruder testified that he thought that he was helping establish what he thought was a legal intelligence-gathering operation. In May 1983, President Ronald Reagan turned down a request from Magruder for a presidential pardon.
After the Watergate scandal, he ended his involvement with politics and business, earned a Master of Divinity from the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1981, and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. He served as associate minister at the First Presbyterian Church in Burlingame, California and First Community Church of Columbus, Ohio (where for a period of time Magruder chaired that city's Commission on Ethics and Values), and in 1990 became senior pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Lexington, Kentucky. In 1995, Kentucky Governor Brereton Jones reinstated Magruder's right to campaign for public office in the state.
In 1974, Magruder published a book about his involvement with the Watergate scandal named An American Life: One Man's Road to Watergate. He also published "From Power to Peace" in 1976, about the reaffirmation of his Christian faith after the scandal.
Magruder consented to interviews with authors Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin while the two were preparing work on their 1991 book Silent Coup: The Removal of a President (St. Martin's Press). Magruder admitted that he had lied to prosecutors, to the Senate's Watergate Committee, and in his 1974 book An American Life: One Man's Road to Watergate, concerning the early cover-up aspects, stating for the Silent Coup book that he had called John Dean several hours after the (second) Watergate break-in was discovered, and that Dean set in motion several cover-up strategies. This version of events tallied more closely with Gordon Liddy's version as set out in his 1980 book Will. However, because Liddy waited eight years to publish, the earlier versions of others, such as Magruder and Dean (1976 book Blind Ambition), became the accepted 'truth'. These versions had very profound and negative impacts on senior figures such as H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and John N. Mitchell. Magruder also admitted specifically instructing Liddy on the second Watergate break-in, something he had earlier denied. At the time these interviews were performed, Magruder was a church minister in Columbus, Ohio.
In 2003, Magruder asserted in a PBS documentary called Watergate Plus 30: Shadow of History, and in an interview with the Associated Press, that Nixon knew about the Watergate burglary early in the process, and well before the scandal broke. These statements contradicted Magruder's earlier statements that the cover-up was no higher in the organization than Mitchell. Magruder said during the 2003 interviews that he attended a meeting with Mitchell on March 30, 1972, at which he heard Nixon tell Mitchell by telephone to begin the Watergate plan. This account, however, has been contested by one source who disputed Magruder's claim, Fred LaRue. LaRue, who was the only other person present at the same meeting in which the alleged telephone call from Nixon to Mitchell occurred, claimed no telephone call from Nixon to Mitchell happened during this meeting. Magruder stated originally that the only telephone call from the White House during this meeting came from H.R. Haldeman's aide, Gordon C. Strachan. Sixteen years later, on August 7, 1990, Magruder changed his story and claimed that the telephone call from the White House came from H.R. Haldeman himself. In 2003, Magruder changed his story an additional time to claim the President Nixon himself had telephoned Mitchell at the Key Biscayne meeting.
On 23 July 2007, he was hospitalized after crashing his car into a motorcycle and a truck on State Route 315 in Columbus. It was later reported that Magruder suffered a stroke while driving. He was charged with failure to maintain an assured clear distance and failure to stop after an accident or collision. Magruder pleaded guilty in January 2008 to a charge of reckless operation stemming from crashes with two vehicles in July. His license was suspended and he was fined $300.
Jeb Stuart Magruder died on May 11, 2014 due to complications from a stroke.