Egil “Bud” Krogh used to greet inauguration of each new President with a Christian Science Reading Room lecture in Seattle, using personal experience to advise young White House aides to remain true to their principles and stay out of jail.
Krogh was the straight-arrow Seattle lawyer who followed his boss John Ehrlichman into the Nixon administration, and ended up doing time for his role with the so-called “White House Plumbers.” The unit was assigned to track down which White House aides were leaking news stories to journalists. (They never managed to catch Henry Kissinger.)
The Plumbers, led by future Watergate defendants E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy and with Krogh’s authorization, broke into the office of Dr. Lewis Fielding, psychiatrist for Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsburg.
Krogh would later write the book “Integrity: Good People, Bad Choices and Life Lessons from the White House.” He would apologize to Dr. Fielding. “Later, Ellsburg and my dad became friends and had some dinners in Seattle,” son Matt Krogh recalled. The two men even did joint speaking appearances.
Krogh, 80, passed away on Friday night.
Krogh took life lessons and colorful stories out of his work for the 37th President. He worked at the White House as liaison with the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drug. Hence, Krogh gained fodder for another book, “The Day Elvis Met Nixon.”
The King showed up unannounced at the White House gate on Dec. 21, 1970, with a letter for Nixon. Presley wanted to enlist in the War on Drugs. Krogh was given the job of figuring out what to do, exchanging memos with incredulous White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman. Eventually, Presley was ushered into the Oval Office for an awkward (even by Nixon standards) meeting with the President, and an equally awkward picture.
Some years later, Krogh and former White House Counsel Leonard Garment dined at the Space Needle. Krogh was reduced to hiccups recalling the Elvis episode. The two men speculated — and Garment would later write about — the identity of “Deep Throat,” the legendary source used during Watergate by Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward. Garment was a jazz musician in private life, which had made Haldeman suspicious.
“Deep Throat” was eventually revealed as then-FBI assistant director W. Mark Felt. Krogh and Garment named him as a suspect, but one among many.
Krogh showed, during the aftermath of Watergate, how to face responsibility and recover.
He was Undersecretary of Transportation when the boom came down. One of Krogh’s last acts in government was to approve Seattle’s Freeway Park. He was indicted on charges of approving the break-in at Fielding’s office, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison. He would serve only four-and-a-half months.
Krogh had as counsel Bill Dwyer, later a much admired U.S. District Court Judge. Instead of stonewalling, Dwyer advised coming clean, a phrase often used in politicians’ press releases but rarely realized in real life. Once out of the joint, he petitioned for reinstatement to the Washington State Bar, citing acceptance of his wrongdoing.
“After winning reinstatement, Dwyer invited my dad to join Culp, Dwyer, Guterson and Grader (I believe as the sole Republican),” Matt Krogh recalled.”When my dad asked if he needed to provide credentials, resume, letter, Dwyer’s response was along the lines of, ‘Come on, Bud, we know more about you than any lawyer we’ve ever hired.'”
Krogh has spent recent years teaching at the School for Ethics and Global Leadership in Washington, D.C. An HBO mini-series, called “The White House Plumbers,” is under production based on his book, with Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux starring as future Watergate burglary overseeers E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy.
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Echoing the theme of his book, Krogh recently told Washingtonian magazine: “Integrity is the key quality in one’s life. If I understood that when I went to work in Nixon’s White House, I probably would not have made the decision (to break the law). I like to think that’s true.”
One more note: They would later be bad guys in Watergate, but Ehrlichman and Krogh were in large part responsible for a notable act of environmental conservation. They were the lawyers who turned back a massive aluminum smelter proposed for Guemes Island, just north of Anacortes.
Guemes Island remains sleepy to this day, subject only to debate over whether it is or is not part of the San Juan Islands. “My wife and I have been looking at some potential property on /Guemes Island, and just discovered from dad that they very property area at would have been part of the aluminum smelter project that he helped fight with Ehrichman and (law partner Jerry) Hillis.”