Nixon Secretary Rose Mary Woods Dead at 87

Loyal Nixon secretary Rose Mary Woods dead at 87 (AP)

Rose Mary Woods, the devoted secretary to President Nixon who said she inadvertently erased part of a crucial Watergate tape that had an 18½-minute gap, has died. She was 87. Woods died Saturday night at a nursing home in Alliance, about 60 miles south of Cleveland, funeral home owner Roger Ruzek said Sunday. He did not know the cause of death.

The gap in the tape of a June 20, 1972, conversation between Richard Nixon and chief of staff H.R. Haldeman was critical to the question of what Nixon knew about the break-in at Democratic headquarters in the Watergate complex three days earlier and when he knew it.

Woods, who moved to northeastern Ohio after leaving the disgraced president’s staff in 1976, never talked much about her years with the only American president to resign the office. But Nixon considered her a member of the family. He wrote in his memoirs that it was Woods he asked to inform first lady Pat Nixon and his daughters in 1974 that he had decided to resign on Aug. 9. ”My decision was irrevocable, and I asked her to suggest that we not talk about it any more when I went over for dinner,” Nixon said. When the time came for the family to privately say goodbye to Nixon before he climbed aboard the helicopter headed for Air Force One, Woods stood by with Mrs. Nixon, daughters Tricia and Julie, and their husbands. ”Rose … is as close to us as family,” Nixon said.

Julie Nixon Eisenhower and Tricia Nixon Cox said in a statement Sunday that Woods will be remembered for her devotion to the country and their family. ”She was a cherished friend to us and to all who knew her. None of us will forget how she served her country with unswerving loyalty and dedication throughout her entire career,” the statement read.

Woods is an interesting historical footnote.

FILED UNDER: US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.