H. R. Haldeman

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H. R. Haldeman
H R Haldeman, 1971 portrait.png
4th White House Chief of Staff
In office
January 20, 1969 – April 30, 1973
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by Wilton Persons
as 3rd White House Chief of Staff

James Robert Jones
as Appointments Secretary

Succeeded by Alexander Haig
Personal details
Born Harry Robbins Haldeman
(1926-10-27)October 27, 1926
Los Angeles,
United States
Died November 12, 1993(1993-11-12) (aged 67)
Santa Barbara, California,
United States
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Joanne Horton
Alma mater University of California, Los Angeles (B.A.)
USC Gould School of Law (J.D.)
Profession Advertising Executive
Religion Christian Science

Harry Robbins "Bob" Haldeman (better known as H. R. Haldeman; October 27, 1926 – November 12, 1993) was an American political aide and businessman, best known for his service as White House Chief of Staff to President Richard Nixon and his consequent involvement in the Watergate scandal. His intimate role in the Watergate cover-up precipitated his resignation from government; subsequent to which he was tried on counts of perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice; found guilty and imprisoned for 18 months. Upon his release he returned to private life and was a successful businessman until his death from cancer in 1993.

Early life and Career[edit]

Haldeman was born in Los Angeles on October 27, 1926, one of three children of socially prominent parents. His father, Harry Francis Haldeman, founded and ran a successful heating and air conditioning supply company, and gave time and financial support to local Republican causes.[1] His mother, Katherine (née Robbins), was a longtime volunteer with the Salvation Army and other philanthropic organizations. His paternal grandfather, Harry Marston Haldeman, co-founded the Better American Federation of California, The Oz Film Manufacturing Company, and the gentleman's club, The Uplifters.[1] Young Haldeman and his siblings were raised as Christian Scientists. Known to his peers as a "straight arrow," he sported his trademark flat-top haircut from his high school years, enjoyed discussions of ethics, and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.[2] He attended Harvard School, during which time he met Jo (Joanne) Horton, who was a student at Marlborough School. They married in 1949.

During World War II he was Naval Reserve but did not see active combat. Haldeman attended the University of Redlands, the University of Southern California and graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1948, where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. At UCLA, he met John Ehrlichman, who would become a close friend and colleague in the Nixon administration. Upon graduation, he joined the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, where he worked for 20 years in both Los Angeles and New York City; other employees of this firm during this period included Ronald Ziegler, who went on to serve as White House Press Secretary in the Nixon administration. A long family association with the Republican party and his own interest drew Haldeman to politics and during this period he commenced working for Richard Nixon, for whom he developed both an intense respect and steadfast loyalty. Beginning as an advance man on Nixon's 1956 and 1960 campaigns, Haldeman managed Nixon's 1962 run for Governor of California and when Nixon was elected President in 1968, he chose Haldeman to be his Chief of Staff.

Career in the Nixon administration[edit]

When Haldeman's appointment to the White House was announced, Robert Rutland, a close personal friend and eminent presidential scholar, urged him to start keeping a daily diary recording the major events of each day and Haldeman's thoughts on them. Haldeman took this suggestion and started keeping and maintaining a daily diary throughout his entire career in the Nixon White House (January 18, 1969, to April 30, 1973). The full text of the diaries is almost 750,000 words, and an abridged version was published as The Haldeman Diaries after Haldeman's death. A full version is available to researchers on CD-ROM at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

Gaining a reputation as a stern taskmaster who expected top-notch work, he and John Ehrlichman were called "the Berlin Wall" by other White House staffers in a play on their German family names and shared penchant for keeping others away from Nixon and serving as his "gatekeepers." They became Nixon's most loyal and trusted aides during his presidency. Both were keen in protecting what they regarded as Nixon's best interests. He and the President were very close – Haldeman was even dubbed "the President's son-of-a-bitch" – and Nixon relied on him to filter information that came into his office and to see to it that information was properly dispensed. To more easily accomplish this, Haldeman reorganized the White House staff to a "funnel" model still followed in the White House today. Both Haldeman and Ehrlichman were keen to protect what they regarded as Nixon's best interests. Haldeman once said he was proud to be "Richard Nixon's son of a bitch", as he never shied away from firing staffers in person.

Haldeman with Nixon at the Western White House – La Casa Pacifica, November 21, 1972.

Role in Watergate[edit]

Haldeman was one of many key figures in the Watergate scandal. The unexplained 18½-minute gap in Nixon's Oval Office recordings occurred during a discussion that included the President and Haldeman. After the damaging testimony from White House Counsel John Dean, Nixon requested the resignations of Haldeman and Ehrlichman in what has been described as a long and emotional meeting at Camp David. Dean was fired and the resignations were announced on April 30, 1973. In a phone conversation shortly after the resignations, Nixon told Haldeman that he loved him like his brother.[3] On the eve of Nixon's resignation, Haldeman asked for a full pardon along with a full pardon of Vietnam War draft dodgers. He argued that pardoning the dodgers would take some of the heat off him. Nixon refused.

On January 1, 1975, Haldeman was convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to serve 2½ to 8 years, reduced to 1 to 4 years after appeal. In Lompoc Federal Prison, he worked as a chemist in the sewage treatment facility. After serving 18 months, Haldeman was released on parole, on December 20, 1978.

"The Berlin Wall" of Ehrlichman and Haldeman on April 27, 1973, three days before they would be asked to resign.

Later life[edit]

In his post-White House years, he went on to a successful career as a businessman, taking an interest in hotels, development, real estate, and chain restaurants in Florida, among other investments.

In 1978, he co-authored The Ends of Power with Joseph Di Mona, in which he took responsibility for fostering the atmosphere in which Watergate flourished, a stark contrast from Ehrlichman, who never forgave Nixon for not pardoning him. Also in the book, Haldeman explained Nixon's statement in the Watergate tapes that Watergate could "open up the whole Bay of Pigs thing". Haldeman said that "Bay of Pigs" was a reference to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Using this information, director Oliver Stone, in his 1995 film Nixon, in which Haldeman was portrayed by James Woods, speculated that the missing 18½ minutes of tape may have contained a discussion concerning a cover-up of the JFK assassination.


On November 12, 1993, after refusing medical treatment in accordance with his Christian Science beliefs, Haldeman died of abdominal cancer, at his home in Santa Barbara, California.[1] His remains were cremated and scattered at a site that has not been revealed. He was survived by his wife of almost 45 years, Jo, and their four children – Susan, Harry (Hank), Peter, and Ann. Upon his death Richard Nixon issued a statement, "I have known Bob Haldeman to be a man of rare intelligence, strength, integrity and courage. He played an indispensable role in turbulent times as our Administration undertook a broad range of initiatives at home and abroad."

White House diaries were released posthumously as The Haldeman Diaries in 1994. The book includes an introduction and afterword by noted historian Stephen E. Ambrose.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Severo, Richard (November 13, 1993). "H. R. Haldeman, Nixon Aide Who Had Central Role in Watergate, Is Dead at 67". New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2010. "H. R. Haldeman, who spent 18 months in prison for his involvement in the Watergate scandal but said he believed his role as President Richard M. Nixon's chief of staff was the "mountaintop experience" of his life, died yesterday at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 67. A son, Hank, said that the cause was an abdominal tumor and that his father had been ill for a month." 
  2. ^ "H.R. (Bob) Haldeman (1926–1993)". The Watergate Files. Univ. of Texas. Retrieved November 8, 2006. 
  3. ^ "YouTube – NIXON TAPES: Nixon Drunk over Watergate (Haldeman)". Retrieved July 8, 2009. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Haldeman, H. R. (1994). The Haldeman Diaries: Inside the Nixon White House. New York: Putnam. ISBN 978-1-879371-86-6. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
W. Marvin Watson
White House Chief of Staff
Served under: Richard Nixon

Succeeded by
Alexander Haig