G. Gordon Liddy, Mastermind Behind Watergate Burglary, Dies at 90

George Gordon Battle Liddy was born on Nov. 30, 1930, in Brooklyn to Sylvester J. and Maria (Abbaticchio) Liddy. He grew up in Hoboken, N.J., a fearful boy with respiratory problems who learned to steel himself with tests of will power. He lifted weights, ran and, as he recalled, held his hand over a flame as an act of self-discipline. He said he once ate a rat to overcome a repulsion, and decapitated chickens for a neighbor until he could kill like a soldier, “efficiently and without emotion or thought.”

Like his father, a lawyer, Gordon attended all-male St. Benedict’s Prep School in Newark and Fordham University in the Bronx. After graduating from Fordham in 1952, he took an Army commission with hopes of fighting in Korea, but was assigned to an antiaircraft radar unit in Brooklyn. In 1954, he returned to Fordham and earned a law degree three years later.

In 1957, he married Frances Ann Purcell. The couple had five children. Along with his son Thomas and daughter Alexandra, he is survived by another daughter, Grace Liddy; two other sons, James Liddy and Raymond J. Liddy; a sister, Margaret McDermott; 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.Mr. Liddy’s wife died in 2010.

From 1957 to 1962, Mr. Liddy was an F.B.I. field agent in Indianapolis, Gary, Ind., and Denver, and a supervisor of crime records in Washington. He then worked in patent law for his father’s firm in New York for four years. He joined the Dutchess County district attorney’s office as an assistant prosecutor in 1966.

In 1968, he began a dizzying, three-year rise from obscurity in Poughkeepsie to the White House. Challenging Hamilton Fish Jr. in a primary for the Republican nomination for Congress in what was then New York’s 28th District, he fell short, but his consolation prize was to take charge of the Nixon campaign in the mid-Hudson Valley, which the president won handily.

His reward was a job at the Treasury Department in Washington as a special assistant for narcotics and gun control. He helped develop the sky marshal program to counteract hijackers. Impressed, Egil Krogh, a deputy assistant to the president, recommended him in 1971 to John N. Mitchell, the attorney general, who recommended him to John D. Ehrlichman, the president’s domestic policy adviser.

Mr. Nixon, furious over the disclosure of the Pentagon Papers, had directed Mr. Ehrlichman to set up the “plumbers” to plug leaks and punish opponents. Among other operations, Mr. Liddy and Mr. Hunt, who were in charge of the unit, broke into the Beverly Hills office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lewis Fielding, for material to discredit the military analyst. They found none.