Study Guide

Leon Jaworski in United States v. Nixon

By Supreme Court of the United States

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Leon Jaworski

Leon Jaworski's parents must have had a penchant for ancient Spartan kings.

Leon Jaworski went from a small boy who did his homework by candlelight to the youngest person ever admitted to the Texas bar exam in 1925. Starting his career defending bootleggers during Prohibition, Jaworski would eventually found the Houston law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski.

During WWII, Jaworski prosecuted five German POWs who killed a fellow prisoner for being a "traitor." Jaworski also prosecuted 45 soldiers for the hanging of an Italian POW. After the war ended, he served as a war crimes prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials in Germany. Though voting for Nixon twice for President, Jaworski's most famous role would be of the Watergate special prosecutor who eventually forced Nixon to produce the tapes that would reveal his role in the Watergate cover-up.

After Nixon fired the first special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, for doing too good a job finding stuff out and asking for his tape recordings, Jaworski was asked by Nixon's Chief of Staff to take the job. He had mixed feelings about it, and agreed to take the position only if he could be guaranteed complete independence in the investigation. In his 1976 account of his Watergate experience, Jaworski wrote, "I had expected to find all sort of wrongdoing by his aides, conduct unbecoming and even criminal, but it had never occurred to me that the President was in the driver's seat" (source).

Once the evidence against Nixon began to mount, Jaworski had no hesitation in pursuing all avenues of investigation of the president. When Nixon attempted to quash the subpoena of his tapes, Jaworski asked to argue the case before the Supreme Court. Once the tapes were released, Jaworski was very relieved to find that his conclusions about Nixon's involvement had been validated. Jaworski would resign as special prosecutor on October 25th, 1974, three months after the ruling of U.S. v. Nixon.

After Watergate, Jaworski served on the House Ethics Committee in 1977. That would be his last major position. He died of a heart attack as he was chopping wood at his ranch in Hays County, Texas.

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