About 20 years ago, when Mrs. Doud and I lived in Prescott, Ariz., and I was managing editor of the Daily Courier there, I met one of those people you sometimes run into and never forget.
Prescott, as you may remember this year, was the headquarters of the Hot Shot firefighting team that was all but wiped out June 30 in a wildfire near the town of Yarnell. Prescott, like other Arizona hill cities, is a cow town, a tourist trap and an odd mixture of right-wing and left-wing politics.
This tall, distinguished-looking man in a suit and tie came into the newspaper one day, walked up the flight of stairs that led to the newsroom, walked up to my boss’s desk and said, “Hi, Jim.”
My boss turned around.
“Hi, Dick,” he said. “I’ll be with you in a minute.”
The boss finished with what he was doing, stood up, turned to me and said, “Why don’t you come with us to lunch?”
Always up for a free meal, I tagged along, and off we went up the street to Murphy’s, the restaurant and saloon where both locals and tourists liked to hang out.
When we got a booth and sat down, my boss’s guest looked at me and said, “I’ve seen you before.”
“Really?” I said. “Where?”
“In church,” he said. “You and your wife sit about four or five rows up from the back.”
My boss turned to me in astonishment and said, “You go to church?” Then the other man held out his hand, and I took it.
“Dick Kleindienst,” he said.
Then came the aha! moment. Of course, I had seen him in church. But I had seen him elsewhere, as well: In the newspapers and on television, when he had resigned as the attorney general of the United States under President Nixon rather than be a participant in the coverup of the Watergate scandal.
I got to know Kleindienst in those years, but we left Prescott before he died in 2000.
I was reminded of him again on Wednesday after reading the news of yet another release of tapes of Nixon’s conversations in the White House. Kleindienst is mentioned in the story.
He was a good man, highly regarded in his home state of Arizona. He was reluctant to talk about Watergate, which was understandable. But he came away from that debacle of dishonor with his own honor intact.