Obituary: H. R. Haldeman

Harry Robbins Haldeman, businessman, advertising executive and political aide: born Los Angeles 27 October 1926; accounts executive, J. Walter Thompson 1949-59, Vice-President 1960-68; Chief of Staff, Nixon Presidential Campaign 1968; Chief, White House Staff 1969-73; Senior Vice- President, Murdock Development Co 1979-85; President, Murdock Hotels Corporation 1984-86; married 1949 Jo Horton (two sons, two daughters); died Santa Barbara, California 12 November 1993.

TO THE REPORTERS who covered the Nixon Administration, they were known with a mixture of resentment and grudging respect as the German shepherds, the Berlin wall and - with Henry Kissinger - the Teutonic Trio.

Harry Robbins Haldeman was always coupled with his fellow Nixon aide John Ehrlichman. Both served as senior aides to President Nixon in the White House, and both served prison terms for their parts in the Watergate affair. They were very different men in many ways. Ehrlichman was a lawyer from Seattle, whose uncle, a real estate investor, was one of the richest men there. Haldeman was an advertising executive with the J. Walter Thompson agency. Ehrlichman is shambling and gregarious; Haldeman's trademarks were his ramrod posture, military crewcut and tight lips.

Yet it was understandable that their names were as closely identified, one journalist said, as Laurel and Hardy or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They were both Christian scientists. They were both conservatives. And they were both unconditional loyalists at the court of Richard Nixon.

Both of Bob Haldeman's grandfathers were successful small businessmen in Indiana. Both moved to southern California; both were isolationist Republicans. Haldeman's father inherited a pipe and building supply company which collapsed in the Depression. In 1933, he started up again, selling heating and air- conditioning units. The second business prospered and Bob Haldeman grew up first in Beverly Hills and then in the San Fernando Valley. After doing poorly at a public high school, he was sent to a private school which imbued him with a lifelong respect for discipline and self-discipline.

Just too young to fight in the Second World War, Haldeman was active at the University of California at Los Angeles on the Interfraternity Council. Among other things he organised a campaign for campus-wide election of the editors of the student newspaper because he was afraid that the Daily Bruin had fallen into the hands of Communist sympathisers.

It was natural for a young man from Haldeman's conservative background to admire Richard Nixon, the young politician from southern California who became a hero to conservatives as a result of his prosecution of the Hiss Communist espionage case. However Haldeman went to work in advertising, first briefly for Foote Cone & Belding, and then for the J. Walter Thompson agency, and did not meet Nixon until 1951.

His talent as an advertising man lay not on the creative side, but as an organiser. He worked on a number of accounts, among them Disneyland, the soft drink 7-Up, a roach poison called Black Flag, and Snarol, to kill snails. By the 1960s he had become one of the vice-presidents of the agency in Los Angeles. By then, however, he had discovered another career that was to bring him both triumph and disaster. In 1956 Haldeman worked for Nixon as an 'advance man' in his campaign.

Haldeman's hostility towards the press was deepened by his experience with the Nixon election campaigns in 1956, 1960 and for the governorship of California in 1962. It was Haldeman who provoked Nixon into his famous outburst at the press ('You won't have Nixon to kick around'). He had been watching the metaphorically baying for Nixon's blood on a television set in the candidate's suite, and worked Nixon up into the mood that led to the famous outburst.

When Nixon entered the White House in 1968 he brought Haldeman with him as his chief of staff, accompanied by a whole phalanx of dapper advertising men from Los Angeles. Haldeman soon imposed his authority as the sternest administrator ever seen on a White House staff. Instead of the freewheeling atmosphere of the Kennedy and Johnson years, Haldeman barked orders and demanded instant obedience.

He understood that Nixon liked to be alone. Haldeman was literally the guardian of his door, ruthless in excluding all the President did not need to see. This made enemies in Washington, a city where access is the lifeblood of careers, for Nixon and even more for Haldeman. He succeeded in insisting that even cabinet secretaries could not see the President except with his, Haldeman's, permission. In the end even John Mitchell, Nixon's campaign manager and Attorney-General, could enter the Oval Office only with Haldeman's permission.

In his memoirs, Haldeman wrote that he was 'no worshipper' of Richard Nixon, and said he had no interest in working for him 'except in his political endeavours'. This weekend, however, Nixon remembered Haldeman as 'a man of rare intelligence, strength, integrity and courage', and said he played an 'indispensable role' in his administration. Unfortunately for Haldeman, he played a crucial part in the attempt to cover up the long series of illegal or unseemly actions that came to be known as 'Watergate'.

Three days after burglars hired by the Committee to Re-elect the President were arrested in the Democratic national committee's office, Haldeman and Nixon discussed how to conceal White House involvement in the crime. The 18- minute gap on the tape recording of that conversation, erased by the President's secretary, came to be called the 'smoking gun' in the Watergate affair; its revelation led to the President's resignation. Haldeman was also taped discussing with Nixon how he might use the Central Intelligence Agency (in breach of American law) to throw the Federal Bureau of Investigation off the scent. Haldeman was found, further, to have controlled a dollars 350,000 'slush fund' used to pay the living expenses of some of the Watergate burglars.

On 30 April 1973 Haldeman and Ehrlichman and other senior Nixon aides were compelled to resign from the White House staff. Haldeman was later convicted of obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and lying to the FBI and to a Grand Jury. He served 18 months of a two-and-a-half-to-eight-year term in a Federal Penitentiary.

After his release Haldeman went home to California and went into the office- and hotel-developing businesses. When he died he was the owner of a chain of steak-houses in Florida.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'