Senate Select Committee on Watergate.

Alum Samuel Ervin Jr. leads a hearing by the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, more commonly known as the Watergate committee, in May 1973.

AP file photo

Nation & World

Watergate through a Harvard lens

4 min read

College, Law School helped shape key investigators, other important figures

Watergate, which started with a break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee 50 years ago this month, turned a panoply of relatively obscure lawmakers, lawyers, and legal scholars into national celebrities. Many of the most well-known came from Harvard Law School at the urging of Congress to investigate President Nixon and his administration. But many other important players in the saga had Harvard connections. Here are some of the most noteworthy:

Materials from published news articles, interviews, and “Watergate: A New History” by Garrett Graff.

Ben Bradlee.

Benjamin Bradlee ’42

Executive Editor, The Washington Post

Approved pursuit and publication of Watergate story.

Archibald Cox.

Archibald Cox ’34, LL.B. ’37

Appointed special prosecutor to investigate Watergate break-in

After Cox issued subpoena to Nixon seeking White House tapes, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson, then Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox in the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre.” Solicitor General Robert Bork would do so as the newly promoted acting attorney general.

Samuel Dash.

Samuel Dash, LL.B. ’50

Chief counsel to Senate Watergate committee

Under his direct questioning, Nixon deputy assistant Alexander Butterfield confirmed the existence of White House taping system.

Evan A. Davis.

Evan A. Davis ‘66

Attorney for House Judiciary Committee impeachment inquiry

Led team that investigated and gathered evidence of the Watergate break-in and cover-up.

David W. Dennis.

David W. Dennis, LL.B. ’36

Served on House Judiciary Committee

A staunch Nixon defender, he voted against impeachment, but after learning of “smoking gun” tapes, said he had changed his mind, calling Nixon’s actions “indefensible.”

Samuel Ervin Jr.

Samuel Ervin Jr., LL.B. ’23

Chairman of the Senate Watergate committee

Hamilton Fish IV.

Hamilton Fish IV ’49

Served on House Judiciary Committee

Part of the “fragile coalition” of Republicans on the House Judiciary to come around and vote to impeach Nixon.

James Flug.

James Flug ’59, LL.B. ’63

Chief Counsel to Senate Judiciary Committee

Flug also investigated the ITT Corp. scandal, in which Nixon ordered the Justice Department to settle its antitrust lawsuit with ITT in exchange for a $400,000 contribution from the company to the 1972 Republican National Convention.

David Gergen.

David Gergen, LL.B. ’67

Staff assistant to the president, White House speechwriter

Drafted Nixon’s Aug. 9, 1974, resignation letter.

Edward J. Gurney.

Edward J. Gurney, LL.B. ’38

Served on the Senate Watergate committee

Florida Republican was Nixon’s top defender on the committee.

Philip B. Heymann.

Philip B. Heymann, LL.B. ’60

Assistant to Special Prosecutor Cox

Investigated White House “plumbers,” secured conviction of top Nixon aide John Ehrlichman.

Terry Lenzner.

Terry Lenzner ’61, LL.B. ’64

Assistant Chief Counsel to Senate Watergate committee

Served subpoenas demanding Nixon administration officials turn over tapes and documents.

Edward Kennedy.

Edward Kennedy ’56

Chairman of Senate Judiciary subcommittee on administrative practices

Ordered a “preliminary inquiry” into the Watergate break-in and behind the scenes pushed for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Wiley Mayne.

Wiley Mayne ’38

Served on House Judiciary Committee

Supported Nixon and voted against impeachment, citing lack of evidence. Later said he would impeach if it came to House floor for a vote, which it did not.

Bernard Nussbaum, LL.B. ’61

Turned down offer to join special prosecutor team

After “Saturday Night Massacre” sparked the House Judiciary Committee to launch an impeachment inquiry, he was named senior staff attorney under John Doar.

Elliot L. Richardson.

Elliot L. Richardson ’41, LL.B. ’47

Defense Secretary, Attorney General

Appointed Cox special prosecutor, quit after Nixon ordered him to fire Cox, starting the “Saturday Night Massacre.”

William Ruckelshaus.

William Ruckelshaus, LL.B. ’60

Deputy Attorney General

Fired by Nixon in the “Saturday Night Massacre” for refusing to fire Cox.

Paul Sarbanes.

Paul Sarbanes, LL.B. ’60

Served on House Judiciary Committee

Drafted the first article of impeachment against Nixon.

Earl Silbert.

Earl Silbert ’57, LL.B. ’60

U.S. Attorney for District of Columbia

Led the prosecution of G. Gordon Liddy and the burglars in first Watergate trial.

James Vorenberg.

James Vorenberg ’48, LL.B. ’51

Associate Special Prosecutor

Known as Cox’s “right hand man,” oversaw staff hiring and credited with designing Watergate investigation’s multipronged approach.

Bob Woodward.

Bob Woodward

Washington Post reporter

Led Post’s Watergate coverage with reporter Carl Bernstein. Admitted to Harvard Law School but did not attend.