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Little Known Characters in America: John N. Mitchell
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Little Known Characters in America

Little Known Characters in America: John N. Mitchell


John N. Mitchell

(September 5, 1913 – November 9, 1988)

Mitchell’s first endeavor into a life-time of service in the political arena was  as bond counsel to New York governor Nelson Rockefeller in the late 1950s. He devised a type of revenue bond called a “moral obligation bond.” In order to get around the voter approval process increasing state and municipal borrower limits, Mitchell attached language to the offerings. Mitchell was able to communicate the state’s intent to meet the bond payment while not placing it under a legal obligation to do so.

Mitchell did not dispute his intentions when asked in an interview if such language was to create a “form of political elitism that bypasses the voter’s right to a referendum or an initiative.”

President Nixon appointed Mitchell to be the 67th Attorney General of the United States and occupied the position from 1969 to 1972. It is interesting to note that Nixon made an unprecedented direct appeal to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that the usual background investigation not be conducted.

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In 1972 Mitchell served as Nixon’s presidential campaign chairman.

During his tenure Mitchell was noted for personifying the “law-and-order” positions of the Nixon Administration, amid several high-profile anti-war demonstrations.

Other failings of Nixon and Michell was their effort to suppress what many Americans saw as major threats to their safety; urban crime, black unrest, and war resistance. He called for the use of “no-knock” warrants for police to enter homes, frisking suspects without warrant, wiretapping, preventive detention, the use of federal troops to repress crime in the capital, a restructured Supreme Court, and a slowdown in school desegregation.

During the Watergate scandal it was Nixon’s tape recordings and the testimony of others involved confirmed that Mitchell had participated in meetings to plan the break-in of the Democratic Party’s national headquarters in the Watergate Office Building. In addition, he had met with the president on at least three occasions in an effort to cover up the White House involvement after the burglars were discovered and arrested. For Mitchell’s involvement in the Watergate affair he would serve 19 months in prison.

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Around 5 p.m. on November 9, 1988, Mitchell collapsed from a heart attack on the sidewalk in front of an establishment in the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C. and died that evening at George Washington University Hospital. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, based on his World War II Naval service and his cabinet post of Attorney General.


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