L. Patrick Gray, III

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Louis Patrick Gray III (July 18, 1916 – July 6, 2005) was acting director of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from May 2, 1972 to April 27, 1973. Gray was nominated as permanent director by Richard Nixon on February 15, 1973 but failed to win Senate confirmation [1]. He resigned on April 27, 1973 after he admitted to destroying non-Watergate-related documents given to him by White House counsel, John Dean [1]. Exonerated by the Watergate Special Prosecution Force after a two-year investigation [1], Gray returned to his law practice in Connecticut.

In an article written in 2005 by the Felt family's attorney [2], deputy director W. Mark Felt, by then suffering from near total memory loss [3], claimed he was Deep Throat, the famous source of leaks to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Gray's posthumously-published Watergate book, In Nixon's Web, disputes this claim, citing Woodward's own notes and other evidence as proof that Deep Throat was a fictional composite made up of several Woodward sources, only one of whom was Felt [1].

Early career

Gray was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on July 18, 1916, the eldest son of a Texas railroad worker. He worked three jobs while attending schools in St. Louis and Houston, Texas, graduating from St. Thomas High School in 1932, at the age of 16 (having skipped two grades). Gray initially attended Rice University for four years, however his true goal was to be admitted to the United States Naval Academy. He finally was admitted the Naval Academy in 1936, his senior year at Rice, from which he immediately dropped out so he could attend the Naval Academy.

At the time, however, Gray could not afford the bus or train fare to Annapolis, so he hired on as an apprentice seaman on a tramp steamer out of Galveston. During the journey to Philadelphia (the closest the steamer could get him to Maryland) Gray taught calculus to the ship's captain, a Bulgarian named Frank Solis, in return for basic lessons in navigation. Once in Philadelphia, Gray hitchhiked to Annapolis [1].

Once at the academy, Gray walked onto the football team as the starting quarterback, played varsity lacrosse and boxed as a light heavyweight. In 1940, Gray received a Bachelor of Science degree from the Academy and the Navy commissioned Gray as a line officer, as which he would serve through five submarine war patrols in the Pacific during World War II (he suffered a ruptured appendix at the start of his sixth patrol, he was unable to get to a hospital for 17 days, an ordeal that should have killed him). His Academy class of 1940 would go on to suffer more wartime losses than any other class in history [1].

In 1949, while still serving in the navy, Gray received a J.D. degree from George Washington University Law School where he edited the law review and became a member of the Order of the Coif. He was admitted to practice before the Washington D.C. Bar in 1949; later he was admitted to practice law by the Connecticut State Bar, the United States Military Court of Appeals, the United States Court of Appeals, the United States Court of Claims, and the United States Supreme Court.

By 1960, Gray's achievements in the Navy included commanding three submarine war patrols during the Korean War, earning the rank of captain two years before he was legaly allowed to be paid for it, and he was serving as congressional liaison officer for the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Chief of Naval Operations. In that same year, when Gray indicated his desire to retire from the Navy, Arleigh Burke the chief of naval operations, told Gray "If you stay, you'll have my job some day." [1] Gray did not stay, and in 1961 joined a Connecticut law firm.

Nixon Administration 1969-1973

In 1969, Gray returned to the federal government and worked in the Nixon administration in several different positions. In 1970, President Nixon appointed him as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division in the Department of Justice. In 1972, Gray was appointed Deputy Attorney General but before he could be confirmed by the full Senate, his nomination was withdrawn. Instead, President Nixon designated him as Acting Director of the FBI after the death of J. Edgar Hoover. Gray served in this position for less than a year. Day-to-day operational command of the Bureau remained with Associate Director W. Mark Felt.

Felt was responsible for heading the FBI investigation of the Watergate break-in and started leaking information about the investigation to Sandy Smith at Time magazine [1]. The White House tapes reveal that Bob Haldeman told Nixon that Felt was the source of the leaks. Gray claimed that he resisted five separate demands from the White House to fire Felt stating that he believed Felt's assurances that he was not the source. Eventually Gray demanded to know who was claiming Felt to be leaking. Attorney general Richard Kleindienst told Gray that Roswell Gilpatric, former deputy secretary of defense under John F. Kennedy and now outside general counsel to Time, had told John Mitchell that Felt was leaking to Sandy Smith [1].

After Felt admitted in the May, 2005 Vanity Fair article that he lied to Gray about leaking to the press, Gray claimed that Felt's bitterness at being passed over was the cause of his decision to leak to Time, the Washington Post, and others [1].

In 1973, Gray was nominated as Hoover's permanent successor as head of the FBI. This action by President Nixon confounded many, coming at a time when revelations of involvement by Nixon administration officials in the Watergate Scandal were coming to the forefront. Under his direction, the FBI had been accused of mishandling the investigation into the break-in, doing a cursory job and refusing to investigate the possible involvement of administration officials. Gray's Senate confirmation hearing was to become the Senate's first opportunity to ask pertinent questions about Watergate.

During the confirmation hearing, Gray defended his bureau's investigation. During questioning he volunteered that he had provided copies of some of the files on the investigation to White House Counsel John Dean, who had told Gray he was conducting an investigation for the President [1]. Gray testified that before turning over the files to Dean, he had been advised by the FBI's own legal counsel that he was required by law to comply with Dean's order. He confirmed that the investigation supported claims made by the Washington Post and other sources of dirty tricks committed and funded by the Committee to Re-Elect the President, notably activities of questionable legality committed by Donald Segretti. The White House had for months steadfastly denied any involvement in such activities. During the hearing Gray testified that Dean had "probably lied" to the FBI [1], increasing the suspicions of many of a cover-up . The Nixon administration was so angered by this statement that John D. Ehrlichman famously told John Dean that Gray should be left to "twist slowly, slowly in the wind."

It was later publicly revealed that, while serving as Acting FBI Director, L. Patrick Gray had destroyed documents from E. Howard Hunt's White House safe after White House Counsel John Dean had assured Gray that the documents were not Watergate-related. Dean instructed Gray, in the presence of John Ehrlichman, that the documents "should never see the light of day" [1]. Following this revelation, Gray resigned from the FBI on April 27, 1973.

Aftermath 1973-2005

For the next eight years, Gray was forced to defend his actions as acting FBI director, testifying before five federal grand juries and four committees of congress [1].

On October 7, 1975, the Watergate Special Prosecutor informed Gray that the last Watergate-related investigation of him had been formally closed [1]. Gray was never indicted in relation to Watergate but the scandal dogged him afterwards.

In 1978, Gray was indicted along with Mark Felt and Assistant Director Edward Miller for allegedly having approved illegal break-ins during the Nixon administration. Gray vehemently denied the charges and they were dropped in 1980. Felt and Miller, who had approved the illegal break-ins during the tenures of four separate FBI directors, including J. Edgar Hoover, Gray, William Ruckelshaus, and Clarence Kelley, were convicted and later pardoned by President Ronald Reagan.

On June 26, 2005, mere days before his death from pancreatic cancer, Gray spoke about the Watergate scandal for the first time in 32 years, after the Vanity Fair article that claimed his former deputy W. Mark Felt was the secret informant Deep Throat. Gray told ABC's This Week that he was in "total shock, total disbelief," noting, "It was like I was hit with a tremendous sledgehammer."

Before his death, Gray, using his extensive and never-released personal Watergate files, began working on his memoirs with his son, Ed Gray, who finished them. The book, entitled In Nixon's Web: A Year in the Crosshairs of Watergate was published on March 4, 2008 by Times Books, a division of Henry Holt and Company.

Gray's Documents

Gray was a meticulous record keeper, a fact most easily evidenced by the forty boxes of personal records he took with him from his year with the FBI [1]. This archive would grow even after Gray left the FBI as a direct result of the legal proceedings in which he was forced to take part in the years to follow.

This archive has become what is undoubtedly the "most complete set of Watergate investigative records outside the government" [1]. The Gray family intends one day to make these records available to the public, although it remains in private hands at the moment and subject to very limited access.


References

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 Gray III, L. Patrick and Gray, Edward. (2008). In Nixon's Web: A Year in the Crosshairs of Watergate. New York: Times Books/Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-8256-5
  2. O'Connor, John D. (July 2005). I'm the Guy They Called Deep Throat,. Vanity Fair.
  3. Woodward, Bob. (2005). The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-8715-0