Birthday: September 15, 1913
Died At Age: 75
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: John Newton Mitchell
Born Country: United States
Born in: Detroit, Michigan, United States
Famous as: 67th Attorney General of the United States
Spouse/Ex-: Elizabeth Shine (m. - div. 1957), Martha Elizabeth Mitchell (m. 1957 - div. 1976)
father: Joseph C. Mitchell
mother: Margaret McMahon Mitchell
children: Jill Mitchell-Reed
Partner: Mary Gore Dean
Died on: November 9, 1988
place of death: Washington, D.C., United States
City: Detroit, Michigan
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
U.S. State: Michigan
education: Fordham University (BA, LLB)
Who was John N. Mitchell?
John Newton Mitchell was the 67th Attorney General of the United States. He worked under President Richard Nixon. He became infamous for his involvement in the Watergate Scandal and is the only United States Attorney General to have served a prison sentence. Beginning his career in law at the age of 25, he eventually became a successful municipal bond lawyer attached to Mudge, Rose, Guthrie & Alexander. In 1967, he met Richard Nixon and quickly developed an undying loyalty towards him. John N. Mitchell became Nixon’s campaign manager when Nixon stood for the presidential election in the 1969. After Nixon became President, he rewarded Mitchell with the post of US Attorney General. Three years later, Mitchell gave it up to head Nixon’s re-election committee and it was in this capacity that he sanctioned Watergate Complex break-in, an incident that resulted in his imprisonment as well as Nixon’s impeachment. However, Mitchell was released after nineteen months and spent the remaining years working as a counselor at a Washington think tank.
Childhood & Early Years
John N. Mitchell was born on September 15, 1913, in Detroit, Michigan, to Margaret nee McMahon and Joseph C. Mitchell. He had two brothers, Scranton and Robert, and one sister, Margaret.
Raised in Patchogue and Queens, John had his schooling at Jamaica High School, Queens. On graduating from there in 1931, he entered Fordham University, from where he earned his B.A. degree. Thereafter, he enrolled at the Fordham University School of Law, earning his L.L.B degree from there, possibly in 1938.
Tall and athletic, he also played semiprofessional hockey while studying at Fordham University and Fordham Law School.
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In 1938, John N. Mitchell began his career at Caldwell & Raymond, which specialized in municipal and state bond financing. As the United States joined the Second World War, he joined the US Navy, serving for three years as Lieutenant, Junior Grade, eventually commanding squadrons of torpedo boats
After the Second World War, he returned to New York City, to resume his legal practice with Caldwell & Raymond and soon achieved fame for his expertise in state and municipal bonds. Later he joined the well-known law firm, ‘Mudge, Rose, Guthrie & Alexander’, remaining with them till 1969.
Sometime in 1960s, he also served as bond counsel to New York's governor Nelson Rockefeller. During this period, he devised a municipal revenue bond called the ‘moral obligation bond’.
In 1967, he met Richard Nixon when ‘Mudge, Rose, Guthrie & Alexander’ merged with Nixon’s firm to form ‘Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie & Alexander’. Very soon, Michelle became close to Nixon, resulting in his induction as a partner. It was then renamed as ‘Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie, Alexander & Mitchell’.
Michelle remained with ‘Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie, Alexander & Mitchell’ from 1967 till May 11, 1973. Meanwhile in 1968, as Nixon emerged as the front-runner for the Republican nomination for the 1968 Presidential election, he persuaded Michelle to become his campaign manager.
In spite of initial trepidation, Michelle was successful in his role, fashioning a tough law-and-order posture at a time when the country was experiencing a tremulous situation due to the Vietnam War and civil right movements. It helped to sway millions of voters to support Nixon.
Richard Nixon assumed the office of the President of the United States on January 20, 1969. Shortly thereafter, he appointed Mitchell as Attorney General of the United States. Mitchell took his office on 21 January 1969 and remained at the post till 1 March 1972.
During his tenure as Attorney General of the United States, John N. Mitchell courted controversies on various occasions. For example, his approval of the use of wiretaps without court authorization was later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
He was criticized for backing Clement F. Haynsworth Jr. and G. Harrold Carswell, two of President Nixon’s nominees, to the Supreme Court even though they were declared unqualified by the Senate. He was also censured for prosecuting the antiwar protesters and for trying to block the publication of ‘Pentagon Papers’.
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In December 1971, he appointed G. Gordon Liddy, a former FBI agent, as White House undercover operative. Shortly, as Nixon’s popularity began to wane, he began to take a series of fateful measures, such as approving a budget of $50,000 for Liddy to take measures against prominent Democrats.
Watergate Scandal & Aftermath
In March 1972, John N. Mitchell resigned as Attorney General to become the Director of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP). On May 25, 1972 on Mitchell’s instruction, Liddy had five men break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Complex, aiming to plant microphones into an aid’s telephone.
Although the burglars planted the microphones, the transcripts were not very clear. Consequently, they were instructed to return and place the microphone in better position. The second operation took place on the night of June 16, 1972; but this time they were caught in the act of breaking in.
As soon as Mitchell received the news he started an operation to cover it up; but was not entirely successful. As Nixon was reelected in January 1973, it was agreed that it was best to let Mitchell take the full blame.
Although he was not very willing, there was little he could do. His wife began ringing up various journalists to save him, putting the blame on Nixon; but was branded unstable.
On March 1, 1973, he was indicted on charges of conspiring to break-in at the Watergate Complex and obstructing justice, perjuring himself during the subsequent cover-up. Other cases were soon filed against him. During the whole process, he took care to safeguard Nixon’s name.
He was convicted on January 1, 1975, and was sentenced to up to eight years in prison. Later, however, the sentence was reduced to one to four years. As a result of his conviction, he was disbarred by the New York State Bar on July 3, 1975.
On June, 22, 1977, Michelle entered Federal Camp in Montgomery, remaining there until he was released on parole on January 20, 1979. He spent the rest of his life alone in Washington, working as a consultant for Global Research, Inc., a Washington think tank.
Family & Personal Life
Michelle was first married to Elizabeth Shine, with whom he had had a daughter named Jill Mitchell-Reed. The couple divorced on December 8, 1957.
On December 19, 1957, he married Martha Beall Jennings, with whom he had two children, Martha Elizabeth Mitchell and John Mitchell Jr. They divorced on May 31, 1976.
The last years of his life were spent in the company of his longtime partner, Mary Gore Dean.
On November 9, 1988, Mitchell collapsed from a heart attack while walking along a sidewalk in the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C., passing away in the same evening at George Washington University Hospital. He was then 75 years old and was survived by two daughters.
His funeral was attended, among others, by President Nixon. Due to his World War II Naval service and his cabinet post of Attorney General, he was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.