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Ron Ziegler

Ron Ziegler
14th White House Press Secretary
In office
January 20, 1969 – August 9, 1974
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by George Christian
Succeeded by Jerald terHorst
Personal details
Born Ronald Louis Ziegler
(1939-05-12)May 12, 1939
Covington, Kentucky[1]
Died February 10, 2003(2003-02-10) (aged 63)
Coronado, California[2]
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Nancy Plessinger (m. 1961–2003), his death
Children Cindy, Laurie
Education University of Southern California (B.A.)

Ronald Louis "Ron" Ziegler (May 12, 1939 – February 10, 2003)[3] was White House Press Secretary and Assistant to the President during United States President Richard Nixon's administration.[3]


  • Early life 1
    • Studies 1.1
    • Work 1.2
  • White House appointments from 1969 2
    • Press Secretary during Watergate 2.1
    • Special Assistant to the President 2.2
    • Strong personal identification with Nixon 2.3
  • Post-Watergate 3
    • Continuing closeness to Nixon 3.1
      • Joins Nixon in California, after resignation 3.1.1
    • Truck stop and chain drug store advocacy 3.2
    • Death 3.3
    • In popular culture 3.4
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Ziegler was born to Louis Daniel Ziegler, a production manager, and Ruby (Parsons), in Covington, Kentucky.[3] He was raised religiously as a Missouri Synod Lutheran.[4]


He attended Concordia Lutheran School and graduated the 8th grade in 1953. He graduated from Dixie Heights High School in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky.[3] Ziegler first attended Xavier University in Cincinnati.[3] He transferred to the University of Southern California in 1958 and graduated in 1961 with a degree in government and politics.[3] While at USC, he was initiated into the Sigma Chi fraternity. He met future Watergate scandal participants Dwight Chapin, Donald Segretti and Herbert Porter at USC.


He worked at Disneyland as a skipper on the popular Adventureland attraction, The Jungle Cruise.[3] He later worked as a press aide on Nixon's unsuccessful California gubernatorial campaign in 1962.[3]

Subsequently Ziegler worked with H. R. Haldeman, who later served as President Nixon's White House Chief of Staff, at advertising firm J. Walter Thompson.[5]

White House appointments from 1969

In 1969, when he was just 29, Ziegler became the youngest White House Press Secretary in history. He was also the first Press Secretary to use the White House Press Briefing Room when it was completed in 1970. Historically, White House Press Secretaries were recruited from the ranks of individuals with substantial journalistic experience; among these were Stephen Early and Pierre Salinger, raising the question of whether Ziegler was hired less for a reputation of substantial journalistic achievement than for perceived loyalty to what became an inner circle in the White House.

Press Secretary during Watergate

He was the White House press secretary for the Nixon administration during the political scandal known as Watergate. In 1972, he dismissed the first report of the break-in at the Watergate Hotel as the discussion of a "third rate burglary", and repeatedly dismissed the reports of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in The Washington Post, but within two years Nixon had resigned under threat of impeachment. Ziegler, for his part, had to issue an apology to The Washington Post for having earlier been so dismissive.

Some of Ziegler's public statements from this period reflect an ostensible commitment to democratic civics which in hindsight was not borne out by the facts. For example, in 1970 CIA security adviser Dan Mitrione, whose later reputation as the promoter of torture techniques became substantiated, was assassinated in Uruguay. It fell to Ziegler to give to reporters a eulogy which in hindsight seemed generously optimistic.[6]

During a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention on August 20, 1973, Nixon was photographed angrily pushing Ziegler towards a crowd of reporters.[7] The president was incensed that Ziegler was not doing enough to keep members of the press away as Nixon entered the convention hall.

Special Assistant to the President

While outside the inner circle of the White House Ziegler commanded little influence, in 1974 he became Assistant to the President.

Strong personal identification with Nixon

Particularly in the period following the resignations of such senior administration officials as Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, Ziegler became one of Nixon's closest aides and confidants, defending the President until the bitter end, urging Nixon not to resign, but rather fight impeachment in the Senate.

During the unfolding political scandal, Ziegler himself appeared at least 33 times before Congress.


Continuing closeness to Nixon

Unlike many other former aides after President Nixon's resignation in 1974, Ziegler remained very close to him.

Joins Nixon in California, after resignation

Ziegler was on the airplane that Mr. Nixon took to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, near San Clemente, California, as Gerald Ford was sworn into office.

On November 12, 1999, Ziegler was due to participate by telephone in a television panel discussion that included several former Nixon and Ford aides, including his successor as White House Press Secretary, Jerald terHorst, who resigned in protest at President Ford's pardon of Nixon. However, Ziegler's feed failed to hook up for the session, which went on without him. [See: Jerald terHorst#Reflections .]

Truck stop and chain drug store advocacy

In 1988, Ziegler became president and chief executive of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, living in Alexandria, Virginia.[3] He was previously known as President of the National Association of Truck Stop Operators.[8] He was described by leading truck stop advocate William Fay as "a significant factor in expanding the travel plaza and truckstop industry's presence in the nation's capital." Hay further credited Ziegler as having achieved "great strides in membership recruitment and expansion of member services." [9]


He moved to Coronado Shores (Coronado, California) where he died of a heart attack at the age of 63.[3]

In popular culture

Ziegler appears in the 1976 film All the President's Men as himself in archival news footage.

Ziegler is portrayed in the 1995 Oliver Stone film Nixon by David Paymer.

See also


  1. ^ "Ronald L. Ziegler". Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library. Retrieved August 9, 2014. 
  2. ^ Tina Kelley (February 11, 2003). "Ron Ziegler, Press Secretary to Nixon, Is Dead at 63".  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Ron Ziegler, Press Secretary to Nixon, Is Dead at 63". New York Times. February 11, 2003. Retrieved April 17, 2012. 
  4. ^ Ron Ziegler
  5. ^ [4]
  6. ^ Norman, Bob (August 11, 2005). "Forever Missing Part 2".  
  7. ^ "Ron Ziegler Recalls Pushing Incident".  
  8. ^ [5]
  9. ^ [6]

External links

  • Former NACDS President & CEO Ronald L. Ziegler Dies
  • Ron Ziegler's Obituary with summary of his years with Nixon
  • Ron Ziegler, former Nixon press secretary, dies in Coronado
  • Washington Post editorial, June 21, 1972, published soon after the burglary.
  • Watergate 'Spin Doctor' Dies, BBC News.
Political offices
Preceded by
George Christian
White House Press Secretary
Succeeded by
Jerald terHorst
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