Regular readers know of my penchant for scouring the news obituaries to put together "Absent Friends" posts on people, some famous, some obscure, who have played an important or semi-important role in history, sports or popular culture, or that simply just grab my attention for one reason or another.
In recent weeks, there have been a convergence of deaths involving people surrounding that period in our history that is known simply as "Watergate", when Richard Nixon and All the President's Men laid waste to the Constitution. (I can remember Johnny Carson during that summer often saying "What's really scary is that someday, THESE will be the 'good old days.' ") So, let us return to that summer of 1973 when the Ervin Committee Hearings captivated American television viewers, and remember....
Jeb Stuart Magruder, who died in May at the age of 79. Magruder was Deputy Director of the the Committee to Re-Elect the President who fessed up to all sorts of improprieties and crimes on behalf of the President, plead guilty, and ended up doing seven months in a federal penitentiary. Like others, Magruder found God while in the slammer, and became an ordained Presbyterian minister upon his release.
Howard Baker was US Senator from Tennessee and was the minority leader on the Ervin Senate Committee. Baker had a long a distinguished career in the US Senate, served as Republican leader in the Senate, served as White House Chief of Staff under President Reagan, and a US Ambassador to Japan. He will forever be remembered, however, for the question that he asked during the Watergate hearings, a question that has fallen into such common use, that it has almost become a cliche: "What did the President know, and when did he know it?" The question pretty much crystallized the entire Watergate Affair. Baker died last month at the age of 88.
And Sunday's paper posted the obit of one Johnnie Waters, 94, who died last week. Who was Waters? Well, he was the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service from 1971-73. He left that office when he refused to use his office to audit the tax returns and generally harass those considered political "enemies" of President Nixon. I suppose that made him a bit of a minor hero in the whole sordid mess.
Observe the deaths of these men by pulling out and watching your DVD of "All the President's Men".
RIP Jeb Magruder, Howard Baker, and Johnnie Waters.