|24th United States Secretary of Commerce|
February 2, 1976 – January 20, 1977
|Preceded by||Rogers Morton|
|Succeeded by||Juanita M. Kreps|
|22nd United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom|
1975 – February 2, 1976
|Preceded by||Walter H. Annenberg|
|Succeeded by||Anne Armstrong|
|69th United States Attorney General|
May 25, 1973 – October 20, 1973
|Preceded by||Richard Kleindienst|
|Succeeded by||William B. Saxbe
Robert Bork (acting)
|11th United States Secretary of Defense|
January 30, 1973 – May 24, 1973
|Preceded by||Melvin Laird|
|Succeeded by||James R. Schlesinger|
|9th United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare|
June 24, 1970 – January 29, 1973
|Preceded by||Robert Finch|
|Succeeded by||Caspar Weinberger|
|25th Under Secretary of State|
January 23, 1969 – June 23, 1970
|Preceded by||Nicholas Katzenbach|
|Succeeded by||John N. Irwin II|
|52nd Massachusetts Attorney General|
January 18, 1967 – January 23, 1969
|Governor||John A. Volpe|
|Preceded by||Edward T. Martin|
|Succeeded by||Robert H. Quinn|
|62nd Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts|
January 7, 1965 – January 2, 1967
|Governor||John A. Volpe|
|Preceded by||Francis X. Bellotti|
|Succeeded by||Francis W. Sargent|
|United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts|
|Preceded by||Anthony Julian|
|Succeeded by||Wendell Arthur Garrity Jr.|
|Born||Elliot Lee Richardson
July 20, 1920
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
|Died||December 31, 1999
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
|Resting place||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Spouse(s)||Anne Francis Hazard Richardson (1929–1999)1|
|Children||Henry S. Richardson (son)|
|Alma mater||Harvard University|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1942–1945|
|Unit||4th Infantry Division (Medical Corps)|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Elliot Lee Richardson (July 20, 1920 – December 31, 1999) was an American lawyer and politician who was a member of the cabinet of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. As U.S. Attorney General, he was a prominent figure in the Watergate Scandal, and resigned rather than obey President Nixon's order to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox.
Richardson served as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare from 1970 to 1973, Secretary of Defense from January to May 1973, Attorney General from May to October 1973, and Secretary of Commerce from 1976 to 1977. That makes him one of only two individuals to have held four Cabinet positions within the United States government (the other such individual being George Shultz).
Richardson was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Clara Lee (née Shattuck) and Edward Peirson Richardson,2 a doctor and professor at Harvard Medical School.34 He was a Boston Brahmin, descended from the earliest Puritan settlers in New England.3
Richardson attended the Park School in Brookline, Massachusetts, and then obtained his undergraduate degree from Harvard University, where he resided in Winthrop House, graduated cum laude in 1941, and was an editor of the Harvard Lampoon.
In 1942, following America's entry into World War II, Richardson entered the combat medical corps in the U.S. 4th Infantry Division. He participated in the June 6, 1944, Normandy Invasion as a platoon leader, where he crossed a minefield to rescue a fellow officer whose foot was blown off.5
He was among the first troops of the "Big Ivy" to come up Causeway No. 2 from Utah Beach, which had been under fire from German artillery at Brécourt Manor. He was among the many who noticed the guns ceasing their firing after (unbeknownst to him), paratroopers of the 101st under Lieutenant Richard Winters had knocked them out. After Stephen Ambrose's book Band of Brothers was published, Richardson wrote to Winters and thanked him.
He continued on in the war in Europe with the 4th Infantry Division and received the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster in lieu of a second award. He was discharged in 1945 with the rank of first lieutenant.
After his graduation from Law School, Richardson clerked for United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Judge Learned Hand, and then for Justice Felix Frankfurter of the Supreme Court of the United States. Richardson then served as U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts from 1959 to 1961, and was later elected the Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts and Attorney General of Massachusetts. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1958.7
Richardson was also an active Freemason as a member of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a 33rd Degree Freemason in the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.8
Richardson had the nearly unique distinction of serving in three high-level Executive Branch posts in a single year—the tumultuous year of 1973 – as the Watergate Scandal came to dominate the attention of official Washington, and the American public at large.
Richardson served three relatively uneventful years as the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare for a popular sitting President, so few would suspect the pivotal role he would play in the chaos that would soon ensue.
In September 1970, Richardson was present at the funeral of Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of Egypt as part of America's delegation. He secretly met with Anwar Sadat, Nasser's successor to discuss a possible peace process with the United States.9
Richardson was appointed United States Secretary of Defense on January 30, 1973. When President Nixon selected Richardson as Secretary, the press described him as an excellent manager and administrator, perhaps the best in the cabinet. In his confirmation hearing, Richardson expressed agreement with Nixon's policies on such issues as the adequacy of U.S. strategic forces, NATO and relationships with other allies, and Vietnam.
Although he promised to examine the budget carefully to identify areas for savings, and in fact later ordered the closing of some military installations, he cautioned against precipitate cuts. As he told a Senate committee, "Significant cuts in the Defense Budget now would seriously weaken the U.S. position on international negotiations—in which U.S. military capabilities, in both real and symbolic terms, are an important factor." Similarly, he strongly supported continued military assistance at current levels. During his short tenure, Richardson spent much time testifying before congressional committees on the proposed FY 1974 budget and other Defense matters.10
Richardson would serve as Secretary of Defense for only a few short months before becoming Nixon's Attorney General, a move that would soon put him in the Watergate spotlight.11
In October 1973, after Richardson had served just five months as Attorney General, President Nixon ordered him to fire the top lawyer investigating the Watergate scandal, Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson had promised Congress he would not interfere with the Special Prosecutor, and, rather than disobey the President or break his promise, he resigned. President Nixon subsequently asked Richardson's second-in-command, Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, to carry out the order. He too had promised to not interfere, and also tendered his resignation. The third in command, Solicitor General Robert Bork, also planned to resign, but Richardson persuaded him not to in order to ensure proper leadership at the Department of Justice during the crisis.12 Bork carried out the President's order, thus completing the events generally referred to as the Saturday Night Massacre.
Just before the resignation of Vice-President Spiro Agnew, Richardson was portrayed as a cartoon figure with Agnew and Nixon on the cover of Time Magazine dated October 8, 1973.13 Agnew was quoted as saying: "I am innocent of the charges against me. I will not resign if indicted!"14 Agnew later claimed that he believed that the prosecution which eventually drove him from office was being zealously pushed by Richardson for the specific reason that the Attorney General wished to be nominated as the next vice-president, which would either give him the inside track for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976, or, should Nixon resign over Watergate, elevate Richardson to the presidency. Richardson denied then and later taking any extraordinary steps in the investigation of Agnew, instead leaving the task up to the U.S. Attorney in Baltimore.
During the Gerald Ford administration, Richardson served as Ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1975 to 1976 and as United States Secretary of Commerce from 1976 to 1977. Although Richardson had been frequently discussed in the early 1970s as a likely candidate for President in 1976, Richardson's acceptance in 1975 of the appointment as Ambassador to the Court of St. James, as it is formally titled, effectively eliminated him from the domestic scene during the pre-election period. In departing for that position, he indicated to reporters that he would not run unless Ford decided against running.16
From 1977 to 1980, he served as an Ambassador at Large and Special Representative of President Jimmy Carter for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and head of the U.S. delegation to the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea.17
In 1983 Richardson was admitted as an honorary member of the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati.
In 1984, he ran for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Paul Tsongas. Although Richardson was favored to win the seat, he was defeated in the GOP primary by more conservative candidate Ray Shamie,18 who lost the general election to John F. Kerry. Richardson was a moderate-liberal Republican, and his defeat at the hands of the very conservative Shamie was seen as symbolizing the decline of the moderate wing of the GOP, even in a section of the country where it was historically strong.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Richardson was associated with the Washington, D.C., office of the New York City law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, of which John J. McCloy was a founding partner. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Richardson was the attorney for Inslaw, Inc., an American software company which alleged that its software had been pirated by the U.S. Justice Department.
In 1994, Richardson backed President Bill Clinton during his struggle against Paula Jones' charge of sexual harassment. In 1998, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
On December 31, 1999, Richardson died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Boston, Massachusetts, at the age of 79. Major media outlets, such as CNN, recognized him as the "Watergate martyr" for refusing an order from President Nixon to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox.19
Richardson was the author of two books. The Creative Balance: Government, Politics, and the Individual in America's Third Century was published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston in 1976. Reflections of a Radical Moderate was published by Westview Press in 1996. Reflections expresses a radical centrist outlook:
I am a moderate – a radical moderate. I believe profoundly in the ultimate value of human dignity and equality. I therefore believe as well in such essential contributions to these ends as fairness, tolerance, and mutual respect. In seeking to be fair, tolerant, and respectful I need to call upon all the empathy, understanding, rationality, skepticism, balance, and objectivity I can muster. 20
- "Anne Richardson Obituary". New York Times July 29, 1999. July 29, 1999. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Richardson, Edward Peirson, 1881-1944. Papers, 1875-1931: A Finding Aid", Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine. Harvard Medical Library and Boston Medical Library, August 19, 2004
- Lewis, Neil A. (January 1, 2000). "Elliot Richardson Dies at 79; Stood Up to Nixon and Resigned In 'Saturday Night Massacre'". The New York Times.
- "Elliot Richardson Dies at 79; Stood Up to Nixon and Resigned In 'Saturday Night Massacre'". The New York Times.
- Butterfield, Fox (February 6, 1990). "First Black Elected to Head Harvard's Law Review". NYT. Retrieved March 24, 2008.
- "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter R". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
- "Elliot Richardson Papers", Library of Congress. Cf. Box 3 : 436
- "SecDef Histories – Elliot Richardson". Secretary of Defense. Retrieved December 30, 2007.
- Doyle, James (1977). Not Above the Law: the battles of Watergate prosecutors Cox and Jaworski. New York: William Morrow and Company. ISBN 0-688-03192-7.
- Nissman, David M. (interviewed on October 13, 1998). "Interview with Deputy Assistant Attorney General John C. Keeney" (PDF). U.S. Attorneys' Bulletin 47 (2, Cumulative Index): 2. Archived from the original on February 27, 2008. Retrieved December 30, 2007.
- "TIME Magazine Cover: Spiro Agnew – October 8, 1973". TIME. October 8, 1973. Retrieved December 30, 2007.
- "Agnew Takes on the Justice Department". TIME. October 8, 1973. Retrieved December 30, 2007.
- "Elliot Lee Richardson". 2005 West's Encyclopedia of American Law. The Encyclopedia.com.
- Richardson, Elliot L. (Spring 1980). "Power, Mobility and the Law of the Sea". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved April 22, 2008. (Article Preview).
- Kornacki, Steve (January 5, 2011) The Republicans who should fear the Tea Party the most, Salon.com
- "'Saturday Night Massacre' attorney general dies". CNN. December 31, 1999. Retrieved December 30, 2007.dead link
- Richardson, Elliot (1996). Reflections of a Radical Moderate. Pantheon Books, Preface. ISBN 978-0-679-42820-6.
- Department of Defense Biography - Elliot L. Richardson
- Social Security Administration Biography - Elliot L. Richardson
- "Elliot Lee Richardson". Presidential Cabinet Secretary, U.S. Attorney General. Find a Grave. January 12, 2001. Retrieved March 20, 2013.