The Washington Post

A phone call to the past

Last week I picked up the phone and dialed a Minneapolis-area number.

“Is this the home of Ken Dahlberg? Kenneth H. Dahlberg?” I asked.

I was trying to get in touch with a member of his family to confirm some details about his life for an obituary in The Washington Post.

Mr. Dahlberg — a highly decorated World War II ace and multimillionaire venture capitalist — was best known for his notable role in the 1972 Watergate scandal.

As Midwest finance chairman for Nixon’s reelection committee, he gave a check for $25,000 to the campaign. Except the check did not finance Nixon’s run for a second term. The money was later determined to have been deposited in the bank account controlled by one of the Watergate burglars, Bernard L. Barker.

Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein used Mr. Dahlberg’s check to prove Nixon was involved with the break-in at the Watergate for their Pulitzer-winning investigation.

“It was the first real connective glue between Watergate, its funding and the Nixon campaign,” Woodward told me in an interview.

Calling Mr. Dahlberg’s home that day, I felt as if I was traveling back in time.

A colleague later told me that hearing me say those words — “Is this the home of Ken Dahlberg?” — reminded her of a crucial scene in “All the President’s Men.”

In the movie, actor Robert Redford, playing Woodward, asks to see any clips from The Post’s archive on Mr. Dahlberg. He had no hits, but there was one photo, a picture of Mr. Dahlberg receiving the Distinguished Service Cross from then-Vice President Hubert Humphrey.


“Mr. Dahlberg? Kenneth Dahlberg?” Redford asks.

During my research for Mr. Dahlberg’s obituary I went down to The Post’s photo archives. In his file, one photo that stood out. (See above.)

The picture that accompanied Mr. Dahlberg’s Oct. 7 obituary was the same photo Woodward used to find him that fateful day in 1972.

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.


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