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L. PATRICK GRAY, III: ACTING DIRECTOR OF THE FBI

L. Patrick Gray IIIOn May 1, 1972, L. Patrick Gray III was at the pinnacle of a classic American success story. From his well-appointed offices as the deputy attorney general of the United States, Pat Gray could look back at age fifty-five with justifiable pride at what he had accomplished in the service of his country and as a beneficiary of the opportunities and freedoms he had fought for his entire adult life. It had been an improbable climb, but it was about to end.

The eldest son of a Texas railroad worker who had lost his job in the Depression, Gray had worked three jobs while bootstrapping himself through high school, graduating at sixteen after skipping two grades. He had enrolled at Rice University, where the tuition was free for a student good enough to be admitted, played football in the Houston Parks League to bring in a few more dollars for his family, and kept trying for four years to get what he wanted most: an appointment to the United States Naval Academy. That appointment came in 1936, his senior year at Rice, and he dropped out immediately to accept it. Unable to afford bus or train fare to Annapolis, Gray hired on as an apprentice seaman on a tramp steamer out of Galveston where he taught calculus to the ship's master, a naturalized Bulgarian named Frank Solis, in return for basic lessons in navigation. The steamer got him to Philadelphia and he hitchhiked to the Academy, where he walked on to the football field and became a starting quarterback, played varsity lacrosse, and boxed as a light heavyweight. His class of 1940, graduating just in time for World War II, would suffer more wartime losses than any other class in Academy history. Pat Gray made five submarine war patrols in the Pacific; at the start of his sixth, he suffered a ruptured appendix in mid-ocean and couldn't get it removed until he reached the Galapagos Islands seventeen days later. It should have killed him, but it didn't.

Pat Gray and familySoon he would make the two most important decisions of his life: In 1945, on his way back from the war in the Pacific, he paid a visit to Beatrice Kirk DeGarmo, the young widow of his classmate Ed DeGarmo, a highly decorated naval aviator who had been shot down over Okinawa just weeks before the war ended. A year later Pat and Bea were married and he adopted her two sons. They would have two more. Also in 1946, he was selected as one of eighteen out of 625 applicants to be sent by the Navy to law school at George Washington University. He graduated juris doctor with honors, Order of the Coif, and member of the Law Review.

While he was studying in Washington, he met a freshman congressman named Richard Nixon.

By 1960 he was a navy captain at the front of a fast field of soon-to-be admirals. Having chosen to stay with submarines as a line officer rather than leaving them to switch to the Judge Advocate General corps, Gray had commanded three submarine war patrols in the Korean conflict and had been given his four captain's stripes two years before the regulations allowed him to be paid for them. Promoted to high-level staff duty at the Pentagon, he was congressional liaison officer for the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the chief of naval operations, the famed Arleigh Burke, for whom the navy's top-of-the-line Burke-class guided missile destroyers would later be named. When Gray told the two four-stars that he wanted to retire so he could go to work as a military advisor for Nixon, who was then vice president under Dwight Eisenhower, both strenuously tried to talk him out of the decision. "If you stay," said Burke, "you'll have my job some day."

Pat Gray left anyway, betting that Nixon would defeat John F. Kennedy in that year's presidential election and that he might then be able to rise even higher on the civilian side than he might have in the Navy. Nixon lost, of course, but Gray had a hole card: a standing offer from a Connecticut law firm. He accepted, but when Nixon ran again in 1968, Gray stayed in Connecticut. His interest was in government service, not partisan politics. When Nixon won, Gray applied for a job. Bob Finch, the newly appointed secretary of health, education and welfare, hired Gray as his executive assistant. Gray moved to Washington for a year, but the financial demands of four college tuitions forced him back to the law firm in January 1970.

Pat and Bea Gray with NixonIn December 1970, he was drawn back into the Nixon administration, this time as assistant attorney general in charge of the Civil Division. When John Mitchell resigned as attorney general in order to run Nixon's 1972 reelection campaign, Deputy Attorney General Richard Kleindienst was elevated to attorney general and Pat Gray was elevated to the number-two slot at the Justice Department. And it was there, as deputy attorney general-designate of the United States, his nomination already reported unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and awaiting a certain full-senate confirmation vote, that Pat Gray found himself on May 2, 1972, the day that J. Edgar Hoover died. The next day, Nixon and Kleindienst appointed Gray to be acting director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a job he would hold for just 361 days.

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