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updated: 8/11/2014 9:14 AM

Wheaton native Bob Woodward still wonders about Watergate

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  • Reporters Bob Woodward, right, and Carl Bernstein, helped break the Watergate scandal that brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon. Woodward grew up in Wheaton.

      Reporters Bob Woodward, right, and Carl Bernstein, helped break the Watergate scandal that brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon. Woodward grew up in Wheaton.
    Associated Press File photo

  • On the day of his resignation, Aug. 9, 1974, Richard M. Nixon waves goodbye from the steps of his helicopter as he leaves the White House following a farewell address to his staff. The Watergate scandal forced Nixon to become the first U.S. president to resign from office.

      On the day of his resignation, Aug. 9, 1974, Richard M. Nixon waves goodbye from the steps of his helicopter as he leaves the White House following a farewell address to his staff. The Watergate scandal forced Nixon to become the first U.S. president to resign from office.
    Associated Press

  • Richard Nixon waves goodbye with a salute to his staff members outside the White House after his resignation on Aug. 9, 1974.

      Richard Nixon waves goodbye with a salute to his staff members outside the White House after his resignation on Aug. 9, 1974.
    Associated Press

 
 

What started as a "third-rate burglary" ended with the fall of a presidency.

On Aug. 9, 1974, Richard Nixon officially resigned from office in the wake of the Watergate scandal, becoming the first and only U.S. president to do so.

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Forty years later, Bob Woodward is best known as The Washington Post reporter who, with colleague Carl Bernstein, broke the Watergate scandal. Woodward grew up in Wheaton and graduated from what was then Wheaton Community High School.

Woodward, who still works at the Post as an associate editor, in recent years has made several return trips to DuPage County for public speeches.

During those appearances and past interviews with the Daily Herald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist has provided some insight into Watergate and how it changed the nation.

Woodward, 71, was a young reporter at the Post when five men broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters on June 17, 1972, at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. He and Bernstein were assigned to cover the break-in and went on to write a series of stories that helped trigger the investigation that eventually led to Nixon's resignation.

He declined, through an assistant, to be interviewed for this story, but during a 2002 interview with the Daily Herald, Woodward said there were clues from the beginning about how there was something more to the burglary than the White House wanted the public to believe.

"Five guys in business suits, $100 bills, everybody clamming up," Woodward said. "Clearly something's here."

During a 2011 keynote address at Benedictine University in Lisle, Woodward called President Gerald Ford's highly controversial pardon of Nixon "very gutsy" because it was based on a desire to help move the country forward from a dark time.

He said he was disappointed the Watergate case didn't make government officials more transparent. Instead, he said, officials developed a "let's make sure we don't secretly tape ourselves" mindset.

He warned then that consolidation of power in government is dangerous to the American people and that journalists must keep watch on officials to guard against wrongdoing.

"What we should worry about most is secret government," Woodward said. "That is what will do us in. We need to know what is going on."

While promoting his 16th book, "Obama's Wars," in October 2010, Woodward said he still worries about what he doesn't know.

A year later, during his 50th high school reunion, he said that finding out as much as possible about what's going on "is the fundamental question of the business of journalism."

"When I get up in the morning, my first thought, quite frankly, is 'What are the (people in power) hiding?'" Woodward said. "And whether they're Democrats or Republicans, they're always hiding."

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