Jeb Stuart Magruder (November 5, 1934 – May 11, 2014) was an American businessman and political operative in the Republican Party when he joined the administration of President Richard Nixon in 1969. He published two books about his political career and faith journey, attended divinity school, and became an ordained Presbyterian minister in 1981. He served the church for the remainder of his life.
He served Nixon in various capacities, including helping manage the president's highly successful 1972 re-election campaign. During that time, Magruder became involved in the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. As a Deputy Director of Richard Nixon's Committee for the Re-Election of the President, Magruder pleaded guilty to conspiracy and served time in a federal prison for his actions. Magruder was the second official in the administration of President Richard Nixon to plead guilty to charges of burglarizing the Watergate complex. In 1974 he published an account of the Watergate affair.
In prison Magruder reconnected with his faith; afterward he attended divinity school and became ordained as a Presbyterian minister. He was called to serve in several parishes, including as chief minister in a Lexington, Kentucky church. During these years, Magruder also spoke publicly about ethics and his role in the Watergate scandal. In the 1990s and early 2000s, he gave interviews in which he changed his accounts of actions by various participants in the Watergate coverup; some of his assertions have been challenged.
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. Magruder served with the U.S. Army for 21 months, and was stationed in South Korea as a private first class. He served during an intermission from his studies at Williams College.
Magruder worked for IBM after college, and has said he did not enjoy it. He moved to San Francisco, to take a position with the Crown Zellerbach firm, where he worked in its sales and marketing department. Later he started his own consumer products company.
He married Gail Barnes Nicholas on October 17, 1959, in Brentwood, California, near Los Angeles. The couple had four children. They were divorced in 1984.
Magruder married Patricia Newton on February 28, 1987, in Columbus, Ohio. They were divorced in May 2003.
In the late 1950s, Magruder moved to Kansas City with Jewel Tea, in a transfer for work. He became involved there as a campaign manager for the Republican Party during the 1960 election campaign, working as chairman of an urban ward.
Magruder moved to Chicago for his MBA studies. Afterward he shifted from IBM to the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. In Chicago he remained involved with the Republican Party. His first major political job was managing the successful 1962 primary campaign of Donald Rumsfeld for the Republican nomination to the United States House of Representatives, preparing for the election in Illinois' 13th congressional district. Rumsfeld won the primary and the seat in Congress, in a major upset in a ward traditionally dominated by Democrats and unions. The win catapulted Magruder into the early ranks of young political technocrats who used data and analytics to engineer campaigns, and it caught the attention of the Republican party machine.
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 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.
He relocated to California in mid-1966, to begin a higher level job 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. He 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.
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. Like some other private sector executives, he took a pay cut to join public service. He moved with his family to Washington, D.C. He worked for Nixon operatives H.R. Haldeman and Herbert G. Klein, Communications Director for the Executive Branch. Magruder's formal title was Deputy Director of White House Communications.
Magruder served in the White House until the spring of 1971, when he left to manage the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (CRP, also known as CREEP), first as Director. By early 1972 in the election year, Attorney General John N. Mitchell took over as director of CREEP and Magruder acted as his deputy. As Mitchell became preoccupied with a scandal involving the ITT Corporation and by the illness of his wife Martha, Magruder took on more of the management of the CREEP.
The campaign to re-elect the President was extraordinarily successful, winning 49 of 50 states; Nixon lost 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 second largest Electoral College (United States) margin in history up until then, after Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1936 victory over Alf Landon, (523 to 8).
Magruder worked as Inaugural Director from October 1972 to arrange Richard Nixon's United States presidential inauguration ceremony and celebration in January 1973. In March 1973, he began a job as Director of Policy Planning with the United States Department of Commerce. He resigned soon afterward, as the Watergate scandal began to heat up and become scrutinized again by media following James McCord's disclosures of perjury during the original Watergate trial of the five burglars; the former Watergate burglar wrote about this to the Washington Star. 
Magruder, in his role with CREEP, became involved with the Watergate matters from an early stage, in many aspects of the planning, execution, and cover-up.
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.
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. After his sentencing, Magruder said, "I am confident that this country will survive its Watergates and its Jeb Magruders." In the end, he served seven months of his sentence (in a Federal prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania).
Magruder originally testified that he knew nothing to indicate that President Nixon had any prior knowledge of the Watergate burglary.
In his book, An American Life: One Man's Road to Watergate (1974), he wrote,
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 before Nixon resigned as the President.
Magruder had testified that he thought that he was helping establish a legal intelligence-gathering operation. In his book Magruder wrote about former Attorney General John Mitchell and Fred LaRue meeting in late March 1972 in Key Biscayne, Florida. He wrote that Mitchell approved the plan to eavesdrop on the Watergate complex soon after this meeting.
After the Watergate scandal, Magruder left politics and business. He wrote about his passage, publishing From Power to Peace in 1976, about his deepening Christian faith after the scandal. He went to graduate school, earning a Master of Divinity from the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1981, and becoming 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. (While there, Magruder chaired that city's Commission on Ethics and Values for a time.) In May 1983, President Ronald Reagan turned down a request from Magruder for a presidential pardon.
In 1990 Magruder was called as 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 1990 Magruder consented to interviews with authors Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin while the two were conducting research for 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 aspects of the early cover-up.
To Colodny and Gettlin, he said 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 closely with that of Gordon Liddy, as set out in his 1980 book Will. Books published earlier by others, however, such as Magruder's in 1974 and Dean's Blind Ambition (1976), had become the accepted 'truth' of the cover-up. These versions had very profound and damaging effects on the reputations of senior figures such as H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and John N. Mitchell.
To Colodny and Gettlin, Magruder admitted specifically instructing Liddy on the second Watergate break-in, something which he had earlier denied. At the time these interviews were conducted, Magruder was a Presbyterian minister in Columbus, Ohio.
In 2003 Magruder was interviewed again, by PBS researchers and the Associated Press. According to his account in a PBS documentary, Watergate Plus 30: Shadow of History, and in an interview with the Associated Press, he asserted that Nixon knew about the Watergate burglary early in the process, and well before the scandal broke. During the 2003 interviews, Magruder said that he had 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 Fred LaRue. LaRue, who was the only other person present at the meeting in which the alleged telephone call from Nixon to Mitchell occurred, has said that no telephone call from Nixon to Mitchell took place during this meeting. 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 directed Mitchell to proceed with the burglary. These statements contradicted Magruder's earlier accounts that the cover-up had reached no higher in the Administration than Mitchell.
In his 1974 book, Magruder had said 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, in the August 7, 1990 interview with Colodny and Gettlin, Magruder changed his account, claiming that the telephone call from the White House came from Haldeman himself. In 2003, Magruder changed his account again, saying that President Nixon had telephoned Mitchell at the Key Biscayne meeting.
On July 23, 2007, Magruder was hospitalized after crashing his car into a motorcycle and a truck on State Route 315 in Columbus. It was later reported that Magruder had 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 the crashes with two vehicles in July. His license was suspended and he was fined $300.
Magruder died in Danbury, Connecticut at age 79 on May 11, 2014 due to complications from a stroke.
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