Jeb Stuart Magruder, the Watergate conspirator who claimed to have heard President Richard Nixon order the actual break-in, has died. He was 79.
Jeff Hull, owner of Hull Funeral Service in Danbury, Connecticut, says Magruder died Sunday of complications from a stroke, the Associated Press and Bloomberg reported.
Magruder was a businessman who became Nixon's deputy campaign director in 1968 and then served in the administration.
He spent seven months in prison for lying about the involvement of Nixon's re-election committee in the 1972 break-in at Democratic national Committee headquarters Washington's Watergate complex. The burglary and cover-up eventually led to the president's resignation in 1974.
In 2003, Magruder said, for the first time, that he had heard Nixon tell John Mitchell, the former attorney general who was head of the president’s re-election campaign, over the telephone on March 30, 1972, to proceed with the plan to break into the Democratic Party headquarters.
Magruder worked with White House Counsel John Dean and G. Gordon Liddy, a member of Nixon’s secret spying unit known as “the plumbers,” to carry out the plan. Both Dean and Liddy went to prison for their roles in the Watergate affair.
“Jeb Magruder, de facto deputy to John Mitchell at the Committee to Re-Elect the President, asked me whether I could make a second, unscheduled entry into the Watergate,” Liddy, wrote in “When I Was a Kid, This Was a Free Country,” his 2002 book. “I told him I could, and received orders to do so on Monday, 12 June.”
President Ronald Reagan denied Magruder a pardon in 1983 before Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones restored his right to vote and run for office in 1995, according to a Washington Post profile. Magruder had worked with Jones’s wife, Libby Jones, on the Habitat for Humanity project.
Magruder later became a Presbyterian minister serving in California, Ohio and Kentucky, and a church fundraising consultant. In 2003, he moved to suburban Columbus, Ohio.
“I lost my ethical compass,” he said before sentencing in 1974. “My ambition obscured my judgment.”