September 2007

On Scandal’s 35th Anniversary, A Look at GW’s Link to Watergate History

In 1972, Watergate burglars staked out the hotel from what is today a GW residence hall.

By Julia Parmley

Law students now reside in room 723 of GW’s Hall On Virginia Avenue (HOVA), but on June 17, 1972, the room had a more infamous occupant: Alfred Baldwin, a former FBI agent and lookout for the Watergate burglars.

As Baldwin looked on from room 723 in the then-Howard Johnson Motor Lodge, five men attempted to break in and wiretap the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee. Their connections with the Committee for the Re-Election of the President led to a massive investigation, indictments of top govern­ment officials, and the eventual resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.

In 1999, GW procured a part of history when it purchased the building to create a new residence hall, which became HOVA. Room 723 was preserved as a small museum for Watergate items and Nixon memorabilia. In the fall of 2001, GW’s University Archives received the collection and now houses the items in Gelman Library.

“GW has a connection to Watergate, which was a huge part of 20th-century politics,” says Lyle Slovick, former assistant university archivist for Gelman Library. “It was the biggest political scandal in American history.”

The Watergate collection contains a wide range of items, from framed pictures of Nixon and his family and news clippings to a copy of Nixon’s resignation letter. The collection also has books about Watergate, including a signed autobiography of G. Gordon Liddy, one of the scandal’s most notorious conspirators, which reads: “For Room 723, My Old ‘Lookout,’ Best Wishes Room.” There also are pictures and letters from GW alumnus Leon Jaworski, L.L.M. ’26, who was appointed Watergate special prosecutor by Nixon in 1973. Jaworski received GW’s Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award in 1965.

The collection’s more offbeat items—a Nixon mask, buttons, and caricature doll—make people stop and think about the era, says Slovick, who remembers watching the Watergate scandal unfold as a teenager growing up in Oregon. “Special Collections’ mission is preserving the history of the University, and Watergate is a tangible part of our history,” he says.

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