Jeb Stuart Magruder, Watergate Conspirator Who Served Jail Time, Dies At 79

Jeb Stuart Magruder, who in the early 1970s served as an aide to President Richard Nixon and then served jail time for his participation in the Watergate scandal, died on May 11 after suffering a stroke, a funeral director in Danbury, Connecticut, said on Friday.

Magruder was 39 when he went to jail in 1974 after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to wiretap, obstruct justice and defraud the United States. Magruder admitted that he knew in advance that Nixon’s political fixer squad known as “The Plumbers” planned to break into the headquarters of Democratic National Committee Chairman Larry O’Brien, in Washington’s Watergate hotel.

Though he initially said that Nixon was not involved with the break-in or cover-up that followed, in later life Jeb Stuart Magruder told a different story, saying that Nixon was in on the plot every step of the way.

Magruder Was Native Of Staten Island, Served In U.S. Army

The break-in took place on June 17, 1972, in the midst of a Nixon’s reelection campaign — a campaign he ended up winning by a landslide over the eventual Democratic nominee, South Dakota Senator George McGovern.

Jeb Stuart Magruder was a native of Staten Island, New York and a graduate of elite Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. During his time at Williams, he took nearly two years off from his studies to serve in the U.S. Army, and was stationed in South Korea.

Six years after his release from his seven-month jail term, Jeb Stuart Magruder studied at Princeton Theological Seminary and embarked on a career as a Presbyterian minister.

Magruder was a successful businessman, head of two cosmetics firms in Los Angeles, when he went to work as an aide in the Nixon White House in 1969. In 1971 he left that job to become deputy director of Nixon’s Committee To Reelect The President, known ominously as CREEP.

In 2003, Jeb Stuart Magruder Changed Story About Nixon And Watergate

Jeb Magruder later admitted to meeting with Nixon aide John Dean and U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell to plan a dirty tricks campaign against Nixon’s political enemies, to be led by former FBI agent G. Gordon Liddy — an agenda that included the Watergate break-in.

But Magruder testified that Nixon himself had no knowledge of the break-in or the cover-up that followed, taking all of the blame upon himself and his fellow aides such as Dean, Mitchell and Liddy.

Three decades later, however, Jeb Stuart Magruder sang a different tune. In an interview with PBS in 2003, he claimed that he had lied in his testimony, as well as in his subsequent memoir about Watergate.

In that interview, Jeb Stuart Magruder said that he personally heard Nixon approving the planned Watergate break-in, during a meeting between Magruder and Mitchell.

Magruder’s sunset years were also tumultuous. After retiring in 2003, he was arrested for public drunkenness in Columbus, Ohio. Two years after that, Jeb Stuart Magruder was again arrested, this time for drunken driving.

Image: C-Span

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