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Watergate Participant, Nixon Aide Ehrlichman Dies at 73

By Martin Weil
The Washington Post

John D. Ehrlichman, 73, the White House domestic affairs adviser imprisoned for his role in the Watergate scandal, died Feb. 14 at his home in Atlanta. Mr. Ehrlichman's son Tom said his father had diabetes.

Mr. Ehrlichman was one of the most prominent members of the administration of Richard M. Nixon. Often scowling, with bristling eyebrows, the energetic Mr. Ehrlichman seemed to symbolize, in his pugnacity, the administration's determination to confront its foes and reshape policy over a wide front.

He was convicted in the Watergate coverup along with H.R. Haldeman, the White House chief of staff, and John N. Mitchell, the attorney general. In a separate trial, he was convicted for the break-in at the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, a Vietnam War critic.

After serving 18 months in federal prison, Mr. Ehrlichman, disbarred from the practice of law, made a new career as an author and appeared to have changed his personality as well. Once known as a brusque stickler for efficiency, he grew a beard and seemed mellow, relaxed and amiable.

"I was never the person everybody saw in the Watergate hearings," he said in 1979. Arguing for a balanced view of the administration in which he was a principal figure, he cited such accomplishments as its passage of significant environmental legislation.

Yet the Watergate scandal cast a long shadow on American public life, and it was for his identification with it that Mr. Ehrlichman achieved his greatest prominence.

Specifically, he was accused of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury in the matter that started with the June 17, 1972, break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office building in the District of Columbia. Five men with cameras and electronic gear were arrested at 2:30 a.m. in the Democratic Party offices.

Watergate, and the high-level efforts to cover it up, forced Nixon's resignation. The term was expanded to include other abuses of power traced to the administration.

As the matter unraveled, senior White House officials were implicated not only in covering up the break-in, but also in the use of government agencies in a campaign of "dirty tricks" aimed at damaging the reputations of Democratic opponents.

Nixon resigned Aug. 9, 1974, as impeachment loomed, and was pardoned by his successor, Gerald R. Ford. Mr. Ehrlichman spent 18 months at Swift Trail Camp, a minimum-security federal facility near Safford, Ariz. He was released on parole in 1978.