Nixon loyalist became the ultimate fall guy for Watergate


Patrick Gray III: Patrick Gray III, who has died aged 88, was the ultimate fall guy of the Watergate burglary.

A Nixon loyalist who was made director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the day after J Edgar Hoover died, he was too naive to survive in the shark pool that was president Nixon's Washington.

Left, as a Nixon aide put it, to "hang slowly, slowly twisting in the wind", he was ordered to destroy FBI files of the investigation into Watergate and did so. The White House fed him fake files alleging that the Kennedy administration had been complicit in the murder of president Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam. All the while Gray's deputy, W Mark Felt, resentful that he was not made Hoover's successor, was secretly meeting Bob Woodward of the Washington Post to give him a lead on what the FBI knew.

Last month Gray revealed his resentment about his deputy's betrayal. He said he felt "deep inner hurt" when he learned that Felt was Deep Throat, the name that Woodward and Carl Bernstein gave to their informant. Felt had denied it to him. Gray said he "made the gravest mistake of my 88 years" in working for Nixon. He never spoke to the president after Watergate, and when Nixon sent copies of his books, he always returned them.

Gray had never realised that Nixon himself ordered the Watergate cover-up and at the end of his life he said his situation was "a madman's horror".

His son, Ed, responded angrily to media reports that his father was one of the guilty men of Watergate. But Gray's lawyer had admitted that his client "peeked" at the contents of two envelopes before burning them. They contained copies of a fake State Department cable implicating President Kennedy in the assassination of Diem and bogus information on Senator Ted Kennedy.

Gray was brought up in St Louis, oldest son of a railway official. After college in Texas he won a scholarship to the US naval academy at Annapolis. He served as a second World War submarine commander and then studied law at George Washington University in Washington DC. He became a friend of Nixon, then a young congressman. Gray served in the Korean war, but in 1960 he retired to work for Nixon, then vice-president and running for president. Nixon lost, and Gray became a lawyer in Connecticut. When Nixon won in 1968, Gray was an assistant to the cabinet secretary for health, education and welfare, and later deputy attorney general, before his appointment as the FBI's acting head a month before the Watergate break-in. He intended to change some of Hoover's strict conventions in the FBI, but never realised how much the FBI resented him as an outsider.

Even after he was replaced at the FBI in 1973, Gray was stuck with Watergate. In 1978 he was indicted for authorising FBI agents to break into the homes of suspected terrorists. The charges were dropped, but Gray had to cash in all his insurance policies, sell his house and his shares to pay lawyers' bills.

Gray married Beatrice Kirk De Garmo. They brought up her two sons by her first marriage and had two sons of their own. They all survive him.

Patrick Gray III: born July 18th, 1916, died July 5th, 2005