A few obscure heroes

The names Elliott Richardson, William Ruckelshaus and Archibald Cox do not conjure up physical bravery, but they are heroes nonetheless. Their honor and duty to their oaths of office gave them the conviction to stand up against the President of the United States. We did not know it at the time, but President Richard Nixon had sanctioned illegal activities and would later resign before he would have been impeached.

What did these gentlemen do that was heroic? Cox refused to back off his pursuit of the truth as the Special Prosecutor of the Watergate hearings. He was asked to do a job and he pursued it with a passion to uphold his oath to the constitution. When the President did not get his wish, he asked Richardson, the US Attorney General to fire Cox. Richardson declined to do so and resigned. Ruckelshaus, his Deputy, also refused and resigned

It came to a head and eventual Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork ended up firing Cox over a weekend in October known as the Saturday Night Massacre.  These resignations and firing may have been the tipping point for Nixon’s demise as the press realized something was indeed wrong. Shortly after the massacre, Nixon released the first set of secret tapes with 18 minutes deleted, which had been requested by Cox and the Senate Commission after learning that Nixon taped all his meetings in the Oval Office. So, Nixon’s own paranoia did him in as he recorded his illegal activity.

Many know the names Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post and their huge roles in reporting on Nixon and all of his henchmen. Yet, we should pay homage to three additional American heroes in Elliott Richardson, William Ruckelshaus  and Archibald Cox.

They were our Men for All Seasons.

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12 thoughts on “A few obscure heroes

  1. Thank you for the reminder of that very interesting period of our history. I was relatively young then and just starting to become aware of politics and I remember being fascinated by what I was reading in the newspapers and seeing on the news. I certainly remember the names of those three heroes but had forgotten that Bork caved in and fired Cox. What a jerk… I’m happy that his Supreme Court nomination didn’t go through.

    • Janis, I was similar in that I was on my teens when it happened. I do remember where I was the night Nixon resigned as it was the first game of the World Football League and they aired the audio of his resignation in the stands. Bork may have gotten payback for his role. Thanks , Keith

  2. That was indeed an interesting time. A paranoid president who believed in the absolute power of the office, and who could set loose any government agency against a perceived enemy, real or imagined. Not too far off from the GW Bush administration, I would say.

    • Agreed on both counts. Nixon was far worse as evidenced by the number of folks who went to jail. When Bush had experienced people around, my first thought was good, they will know what to do. The sad part is they knew what to do and it was not always good.

  3. I was a sophomore in high school during Watergate. We had to follow the story unfolding in class but, of course, I wasn’t interested. I had more important things to thinking about back then. I do wish I had paid better attention now.

    • It was cumbersome for a teen. And, much of the testimony was droll. Thank goodness for Senator Sam Ervin whose folksy humor made it more bearable. I actually got into it more reading John Dean and Gordon Liddy’s books and watching “All the President’s Men.”

      • I keep up with current new somewhat. If I divulge in political history it’s usually action packed or a love story. I prefer uplifting stories and exploring history not political.

      • History is entertaining to me, but if it has too much politics, it can be annoying. I cannot bring myself to watch House of Cards, as it reminds me of the our current Congress’ dysfunction.

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