Egil “Bud” Krogh Jr., 80, a lawyer and Nixon aide who co-chaired the secret White House “Plumbers” unit and was sentenced to prison after approving a break-in at the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, died Jan. 18 at a hospital in Washington. Krogh had suffered a stroke in 2015.
A former deputy assistant to the president and undersecretary of transportation, Krogh was the first member of the Nixon administration sentenced to prison for his conduct in the White House. He later called the Ellsberg episode “a meltdown in personal integrity” and spent years teaching and lecturing about ethics, atoning for his crimes and teaching others how to avoid what he described as a historic error in judgment.
“If you compromise your integrity, you allow a little piece of your soul to slip through your hands,” he wrote in a memoir, “Integrity” (2007), with his son Matthew Krogh. “Integrity, like trust, is all too easy to lose, and all too difficult to restore.”
In the eyes of Krogh and many presidential historians, the 1971 break-in at the Beverly Hills office of Lewis Fielding, Ellsberg’s former psychiatrist, paved the way for a more notorious burglary at the Watergate complex in Washington nearly 10 months later, when two of Krogh’s former associates helped organize a break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters.
While the Fielding break-in was widely considered a shocking abuse of presidential power, it was all the more unexpected given the involvement of Krogh, an Eagle Scout and retired Navy communications officer who was considered “the White House Mr. Clean, so straight an arrow that his friends mockingly called him ‘Evil Krogh,’ ” wrote Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their Watergate book “All the President’s Men.”
Krogh was only 29 when he joined the White House, having worked with family friend John Ehrlichman at a Seattle law firm. When Ehrlichman became Nixon’s White House counsel (and later domestic policy chief) after the 1968 election, Krogh followed him to Washington, where he orchestrated an impromptu meeting between Elvis Presley and the president in 1970, in addition to directing Nixon’s narcotics-control efforts and working to reduce crime in the District of Columbia.
His work dramatically shifted after June 13, 1971, when the New York Times published excerpts of the Pentagon Papers, a secret history of the Vietnam War that had been leaked by Ellsberg. Its release spurred the White House to create the Special Investigations Unit, later nicknamed the “Plumbers” because they aimed to plug the leak of classified information, in addition to generating advantageous leaks of their own.
Krogh pleaded guilty to “conspiracy against rights of citizens” and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in their investigation of the Watergate scandal.
Egil Krogh Jr. was born in Chicago on Aug. 3, 1939.
Edith Kunhardt Davis, 82, daughter of Dorothy Kunhardt who wrote “Pat the Bunny” (1940), and followed in her mother’s footsteps as an author of children’s books and extended the “Pat the Bunny” franchise, died Jan. 2 at a hospital in Manhattan.
Her nephew Philip B. Kunhardt III said the cause was acute pneumonia and lung failure.
She didn’t start writing those innocent tales until she had climbed out of the dark well of alcoholism.
And long after she had become sober, she was confronted with the possibility that her excessive drinking while she was pregnant had led to the death of her son when he was 27.
His death from heart disease in 1990 became the subject of Davis’ 1995 memoir, “I’ll Love You Forever, Anyway.” An account of her grief made all the more anguishing by her guilt, stood in stark contrast to the cheerful children’s tales for which she was known.
She had stopped drinking in 1973, after which she produced more than 70 children’s books, some of them nonfiction. She also illustrated more than a dozen of them.
Getting sober, Kunhardt said of his aunt, changed her life. “She came alive in a new way,” he said. “Her eyes brightened; she lost the heaviness and sense of despair that was there before.”
He said she talked freely about her experience: “She didn’t want to be ashamed of herself and wanted people to know there was help out there.”
Kirkus Reviews called her memoir “a raw outpouring,” adding, “Only John Gunther’s ‘Death Be Not Proud,’ an account of his son’s death, rivals it in the literature of parental grief and recovery.”
In addition to writing children’s books, her mother revered Abraham Lincoln, a passion she inherited from her father, Frederick Hill Meserve. Their house was filled with Lincoln and Civil War memorabilia. Her father amassed one of the greatest private collections devoted to Lincoln, with about 73,000 items. including a lock of Lincoln’s hair.
By now, five generations of the family have been absorbed in Lincoln, and many, including Dorothy Kunhardt, wrote books about him. On a trip to Springfield, Ill., she bought lamps from the parlor where Lincoln was married and used them to light her own house. Little wonder that Edith would eventually write her own account, a children’s book called “Honest Abe” (1993).
In a later memoir, “My Mother, the Bunny and Me” (2016), Edith recalled her eccentric childhood between the Depression and World War II and the creative household in which she was raised, with her mother’s literary friends, like Carl Sandburg and Isak Dinesen, coming and going. Dorothy Kunhardt wrote 43 children’s books before she died in 1979.
Edith Turner Kunhardt was born on Sept. 30, 1937, in Morristown, N.J.