L. Patrick Gray, Watergate-Era FBI Director, Dies

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L. Patrick Gray; Photo: FBI

L. Patrick Gray served as acting FBI director in 1972-73. hide caption

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L. Patrick Gray, whose brief stint as acting FBI director was marked by the Watergate break-in, has died. Gray was 88. Recently Gray said he felt betrayed by his deputy, W. Mark Felt, who acted as a source for stories in The Washington Post about the burglary of the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex.


The man at the head of the FBI during the Watergate break-in has died. L. Patrick Gray was 88 years old. President Richard Nixon appointed Gray acting director of the FBI in 1972. Six weeks into his tenure, five burglars broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex in Washington. NPR political editor Ken Rudin joins me now.

Good morning.

KEN RUDIN reporting:

Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: What was L. Patrick Gray's role during Watergate?

RUDIN: Well, actually he was about to be confirmed as deputy attorney general when J. Edgar Hoover died in 1972, then President Nixon picked Gray as the acting FBI director. So while he was still yet to be confirmed as FBI director, he was in that acting position when those--as you say, the men broke into the Watergate complex in June of '72.

MONTAGNE: Now just recently, weeks ago, L. Patrick Gray said he felt betrayed by his deputy, who turned out to be Deep Throat. Talk to us about that.

RUDIN: It was a remarkable interview. L. Patrick Gray, 10 days ago actually, on ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," talked about Mark Felt having betrayed the FBI during Watergate, having been the Deep Throat cover that Bob Woodward used as a source, and Patrick Gray says, you know, `My mistake was that I trusted him completely. I asked him over and over again if he was the person leaking to The Washington Post.' Felt assured Patrick Gray that that was not the case, and so whenever the Nixon administration said they've got to fire Felt, Patrick Gray said, `Absolutely not, because I believe in this guy.'

MONTAGNE: And even right to the end.

RUDIN: That's right. You know, what was funny about--what was interesting about Gray, that he was a very trusting person. Not only did he trust Mark Felt, but he trusted Richard Nixon, so when the Nixon administration asked him to, like, give over documents, when John Dean, working for the Nixon administration, asked for documents to be turned over, Patrick Gray--L. Patrick Gray believed in the Nixon administration until it was too late, and I guess that belief and that trust is what doomed his ultimate career.

MONTAGNE: Well, just as an aside, Patrick Gray himself for a while was thought to maybe be Deep Throat. His name was on some lists.

RUDIN: He was on everybody's list and, of course, one of the reasons was he lived a couple of blocks from Bob Woodward's house, and so given the fact that the Nixon administration was, so-called, out to get Patrick Gray, the famous John Ehrlichman quote, that "we want this guy twisting--slowly twisting in the wind." Gray could have used, you know, maybe--perhaps got back at the Nixon administration by leaking to Woodward and Bernstein but, of course, Gray, like Mark Felt, always denied that rumor as well.

MONTAGNE: Now Patrick Gray was never indicted for any Watergate-related misdeeds, but he was criticized for thwarting the investigation, which goes back, I think, to trusting Richard Nixon.

RUDIN: That's exactly right. I mean, he said that John Dean came to him and said basically there were some documents that could not see the light of day, and he thought this was a national security request and he removed documents, he destroyed documents, and he gave John Dean some additional documents. But at the time he said that he was--he believed the administration, saying that the CIA was deeply involved in this investigation into the Watergate break-in, and that's why he had to give up these documents. But Patrick Gray, as a lot of people, were fooled by the Nixon administration officials back in '72 and '73.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much. NPR political editor Ken Rudin. Thanks.

L. Patrick Gray, the man who headed the FBI during the Watergate break-in, died yesterday.

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