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Historical Society Shifts Gears with its Speaker Series

elliott richardsonBy Sue Moore

The August 15 speaker for the Vicksburg Historical Society focuses on a more modern historical luminary: former U.S. Atty. General Elliott Richardson and his role in the 1973 Watergate crisis.

Tom Vance, marketing and communications officer for the Kalamazoo Foundation, wrote a biography of Richardson. He will talk about the research he conducted as part of his master’s degree work at Western Michigan University. The book was originally available in 2000 as an online publication by the Council for Excellence in Government. Vance’s master’s degree from WMU is in U.S. History with a concentration in biography. He is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve.

Richardson, who died in 1999, holds two records in American history. As a lawyer, he was the only person to serve as a U.S. attorney, a state attorney general, and U.S. attorney general. As a politician, he headed four federal cabinet-level posts: secretaries of the former Health, Education and Welfare; Defense; Justice; and Commerce departments. His legacy as a brilliant and versatile public servant is equaled by only a handful of Americans. Richardson believed that “politics is the most difficult of the arts and the noblest of professions,” notes Vance.

He is primarily remembered for his courageous actions as U.S. Attorney General during the 1973 Watergate investigation. Although he served in this post for only five months, his tenure at the Justice Department has no precedent. While widely known for his resignation over Watergate, less well-known is that he was responsible for the simultaneous investigations of both Vice President Spiro T. Agnew and President Richard M. Nixon. Richardson succeeded in persuading the Vice President to resign, clearing the way for the appointment of Gerald R. Ford as vice president before President Nixon became the first president to resign from office.

“Nixon assured Richardson that he had nothing to do with Watergate, so he took the job and just seven months later resigned because he wouldn’t tell Archibald Cox to stop investigating Watergate. There are some parallels to our current situation in Washington,” Vance told WMUK in a radio interview last month.

Vance conducted a one-hour interview with Richardson shortly before he passed away in 1999. He will be speaking at the Vicksburg Community Center at 7 p.m. on August 15. The public is encouraged to attend.

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