Frederick Cheney "Fred" LaRue (October 11, 1928, Athens, Texas – July 24, 2004, Biloxi, Mississippi) was a presidential aide of the administration of U.S. President Richard Nixon. LaRue served time in prison for his role in events resulting the Watergate first break-in and the subsequent Watergate scandal and cover-up. LaRue did not have any rank, title, salary or even listing in the White House directory.[1] LaRue was present at an early meeting with his friend, U. S. Attorney General John Mitchell at which the Watergate burglarly was planned. After the Watergate burglary, LaRue assisted the cover-up, supervising the shredding of documents and the destruction of financial records.[2]

Biography[edit | edit source]

LaRue was a son of Ike Parsons LaRue, who later went to prison for violating banking laws, and, upon his release, made a fortune in the oil business. Fred LaRue sold one of their Mississippi oil fields for a reported $30 million in 1957. Later that year, he accidentally shot and killed his father while hunting with friends in Canada.

With his newfound wealth, LaRue invested in many failed business ventures including casinos in Havana, just prior to the revolution, and Las Vegas. He also used his wealth to become a political financier and served as a member of the Republican National Committee from 1963 until 1968. He was a heavy financial contributor to Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign in 1964. He was also a longtime friend of the virulent racist Mississippi Democratic Senator James Eastland. (ref. Caro, Robert: Master of the Senate p.102-103, & p. 867). After Goldwater lost the election, LaRue began getting involved with Nixon's career. LaRue was one of the principal planners of Nixon's so-called "Southern strategy" for winning the election, part of which he helped coördinate with advertisements from the campaign office of segregationist Strom Thurmond.

LaRue also recommended the use of a "special ballad-type song in the current 'country-and-western music style, by which nationally famous artists will sing the message via the radio and TV." The song was called "Bring Our Country Back" and included "alternate" lyrics with the couplet: "Dick Nixon is a decent man/Who can bring our country back." LaRue proposed broadcasting the song by local radio and television programs throughout the South. However, he had difficulty finding artists to perform the song; everybody either sympathized with George Wallace or did not want to help Nixon. Eventually, LaRue managed to convince Roy Acuff and Tex Ritter, who were unsuccessful Republican candidates themselves for governor and U.S. senator, respectively, in the state of Tennessee at different times, to perform versions of the song.

LaRue, with Eastland's help, helped the process for the confirmation of many of Nixon's judicial nominees. He has been described as a special assistant in an "advisory capacity" to then-Attorney General John Mitchell, who later managed Nixon's Committee to Re-elect the President.

On March 30, 1972, LaRue attended a meeting in Key Biscayne, Florida with Mitchell and Jeb Magruder. Mitchell, having announced his resignation as Attorney General on February 15, assumed his new duties as head of the Committee to Re-elect the President, effective on March 1. The March 30 meeting has been the subject of great dispute among its three participants. According to Magruder, the three men approved the so-called Operation Gemstone and other aspects of a "dirty tricks" campaign against the Democratic Party. LaRue and Mitchell, to their deaths, always denied this vehemently. In 2003, Magruder stated, for the first time, that it was at this meeting that President Nixon, speaking to Mitchell by telephone, voiced specific approval for the Watergate burglary. Mitchell and Nixon had both been dead for years, and Fred LaRue denied Magruder's claim publicly.

LaRue was known as the "bagman" because he delivered more than $300,000 in cash ("hush money") to the conspirators and their attorneys to keep participants of the Watergate burglary quiet.[1] LaRue was the first Administration official to plead guilty to crimes related to his involvement with the Watergate burglary and the cover-up. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in July 1973 and served four and a half months in custody at the Maxwell Air Force Base near Montgomery, Alabama. LaRue's fellow Watergate-convicts John Mitchell and Charles Colson also served their prison time at Maxwell AFB.

It is notable that LaRue refused to testify against Nixon or others. One of Nixon's first public appearances after his resignation came in 1977 at a Salute to the Military in Biloxi and directed by LaRue, perhaps as a reward to LaRue for his loyalty.

Fred LaRue died 27 July 2004 in Biloxi, Mississippi. He was survived by his wife, Joyce Burleson LaRue, and six children.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Patricia Sullivan, "Watergate 'Bagman' Fred LaRue, 75, Dies," Washington Post, July 29, 2004.
  2. Caro, Robert (2002). The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 102–103; p. 867. ISBN 0-394-52836-0. 
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