Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, George Gordon Battle Liddy was a frail boy who grew up in a neighborhood where mostly German Americans lived. From friends and a girl who was a German citizen, Liddy developed a curiosity for the German leader Adolf Hitler and was inspired by Hitler’s radio speeches in the 1930s.
“If an entire nation could be changed, raised from weakness to extraordinary strength, so could one person,” Liddy wrote in Will, his autobiography.
Liddy decided that it was important to face your fears and overcome them. At the age of 11, Liddy roasted and ate a rat to overcome his fear of rats. “From now on rats could fear me as they fear cats,” he wrote.
After attending Fordham University and serving in the Army, Liddy graduated from Fordham University Law School and then joined the FBI. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in New York in 1968 and helped organize Nixon’s presidential campaign in the state.
When Nixon took office, Liddy was named special assistant to the Treasury Department and served under Treasury Secretary David M. Kennedy. Liddy later moved to the White House, then to Nixon’s re-election campaign, where his official title was General Counsel.
Liddy led a team of Republican activists known as “plumbers” whose job it was to find information leaks that were embarrassing to the Nixon administration. Liddy’s specialties included collecting political information and organizing activities to disrupt or discredit Nixon’s democratic opponents.
While he was recruiting a woman to help carry out one of his plans, Liddy tried to convince her that no one could force him to reveal her identity or anything against his will. To convince her, Liddy put his hand over a lit cigarette lighter. His hand was badly burned. The woman refused the job.
Liddy became known for such unusual proposals as the kidnapping of war protest organizers and their transfer to Mexico during the Republican National Convention. Murder of investigative journalist Jack Anderson; and incendiary bombs on the Brookings Institution, a left-wing think tank in Washington that kept classified information leaked by Ellsberg.
Liddy and colleague Howard Hunt and the five people arrested at Watergate were charged on federal charges three months after the break-in in June 1972. Hunt and his recruits pleaded guilty in January 1973, and James McCord and Liddy were found guilty. Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974.
After the failed break-in attempt, Liddy recalled telling White House attorney John Dean, “If someone wants to shoot me, just tell me which corner to stand on and I’ll be there, OK?” Dean reportedly replied, “I don’t think we got there yet, Gordon.”
In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, Liddy claimed that Nixon was “insufficiently reckless” and should have destroyed tapes of his conversations with top aides.
Liddy learned to market his reputation as a fearless, if sometimes overzealous, conservative advocate. Liddy’s syndicated radio talk show, broadcast by Virginia-based WJFK, has long been one of the most popular in the country. He wrote bestsellers, starred on television shows such as “Miami Vice” and “Airwolf,” was a frequent visiting professor on college campuses, started a private eye franchise, and worked as a security advisor. For a while he worked with an unlikely partner, 1960s LSD guru Timothy Leary, on the lecture group.
In the mid-1990s, Liddy asked radio listeners to aim for the head if they were encountered by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
“Headshots, headshots,” he pointed out, explaining that most agents wear bulletproof vests under their jackets. Liddy later said he did not encourage people to hunt down agents, but added that if an agent attacks someone with lethal force, “you should use lethal force to defend yourself and your rights.”
Liddy was always proud of his role in Watergate. He once said, “I’m proud of the fact that I’m the guy who didn’t speak.”
Liddy was the last surviving member of the so-called Watergate Seven behind the botched break-in. Frank Sturgis died in 1993, Hunt died in 2007, Bernard Barker died in 2009, Villo Gonzalez died in 2014, McCord died in 2017, and Eugenio Martinez died in January. Frank Wills, the security guard who discovered the break-in, died in 2000,