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William Saxbe, 94, Attorney General Under Nixon, Dies

William Saxbe, 94, a tobacco-chewing, gun-toting Republican U.S. Senator from Ohio who became the fourth U.S. attorney general under President Nixon, and later called the commander-in-chief a liar who led "one of the most inept" administrations in history, died Aug. 24.

In January 1974, Mr. Saxbe was sworn in as attorney general amid a tumultuous period in Nixon's presidency. His first two attorneys general, John N. Mitchell and Richard G. Kleindiest, had been removed from their posts after being accused of crimes related to the Watergate scandal, which involved the 1972 break-in of the Democratic party's headquarters and traced to the Committee to Re-Elect the President.

In a series of events that came to be known as the "Saturday Night Massacre," the third attorney general, Elliot L. Richardson, refused Nixon's orders to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and resigned. The deputy attorney general, who would have succeeded Cox, also refused to fire Cox and also resigned.

Mr. Saxbe, a maverick in the senate who was known to cross party lines on interests involving defense and the war in Vietnam, strategically was seen as the only possible nominee Nixon could appoint that would have a chance to be confirmed.

In a 20 minute vote, only 10 senators opposed Mr. Saxbe's nomination, and he spent just more than a year in office overseeing the ultimate resignation of Nixon and an anti-trust lawsuit that divided AT&T into seven companies.

He resigned as attorney general in February 1975 to become Ambassador to India before returning to private life as a lawyer.

A gregarious man known to burst into song parties, he once recorded "Ace in the Hole" with an Ohio band called Waldo's Gutbucket Syncopators.

A full obituary on Mr. Saxbe is on the way. In the meantime, if you have any comments about his career as attorney general, leave them below.

By T. Rees Shapiro  |  August 25, 2010; 10:43 AM ET
Categories:  Politics , T. Rees Shapiro  | Tags: AT&T, attorney general, nixon, richard nixon, saturday night massacre, watergate, william saxbe  
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Bill Saxbe was a friend of mine for the past 7-8 years. He was a great guy and as down to earth for a wealthy, famous person as you could ever find. Told great stories and had an opinion on everything. He gave my son (7) his Red Ryder BB gun one day because he saw how taken Jonathan was with it. I enjoyed talking to him and soaking up his history. Alzhiemers ate him up over the past few years. I will miss him.

Posted by: seahag72 | August 25, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

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