Henry S. Ruth Jr. dies at 80; Watergate special prosecutor

Henry S. Ruth Jr., who served a year as Watergate special prosecutor after Archibald Cox was fired and Leon Jaworski resigned, died in Tucson on March 16 after a stroke, his wife, Deborah Mathieu, said. He was 80.

Ruth investigated organized crime for the Justice Department before joining the Watergate investigation in 1973 as Cox's chief deputy. When Cox was fired later that year during the infamous Saturday Night Massacre, Ruth rallied the staff and preserved the evidence they had collected in the corruption probe that ultimately led to

President Nixon

's resignation in 1974.

"But for Hank Ruth, there might not have been a Watergate staff at all when Mr. Jaworski took over," Samuel Dash, counsel to the Senate Watergate committee, told the

Washington Post

in 1973.

In late 1974, after Jaworski resigned, Ruth was elevated to special prosecutor. He questioned Nixon about the actions of his top aides, including John Mitchell, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, as well as about an 18-minute gap in the

White House

tape recordings of the president's private conversations. Mitchell, Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Nixon campaign lawyer Robert Mardian were sentenced for their roles in the scandal during Ruth's tenure.

Born April 16, 1931, in


, Ruth graduated from

Yale University

and the

University of Pennsylvania

law school and served in Army intelligence before joining the Justice Department in 1961.

He testified against the Supreme Court nomination of Robert H. Bork, who as acting attorney general carried out Nixon's order to fire Cox. He later served on the panel that investigated the fatal 1985 police standoff with MOVE members in Philadelphia that killed 11 people.