California Legislator Jerome Waldie, 84, Was an Outspoken Nixon Critic

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Jerome Waldie, 84, a California Democrat who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1966 to 1975 and became an early advocate of impeaching President Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate scandal, died April 3 at his home in Placerville, Calif. No cause of death was reported.

Mr. Waldie, a liberal Democrat, represented a San Francisco Bay area district for eight years in the state Assembly before serving in the House of Representatives.

One of Nixon's most outspoken critics, he was one of the first members of the House Judiciary Committee to call for impeachment, after the firing in October 1973 of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who had angered Nixon by demanding the release of crucial White House tapes.

Three days after Cox was fired in the so-called "Saturday night massacre," Mr. Waldie introduced a resolution citing obstruction of justice as grounds for impeachment. Faced with the near certainty of his removal, Nixon resigned Aug. 9, 1974.

Mr. Waldie relinquished his congressional seat in 1974 to run for governor, embarking on a low-budget, walk-the-state campaign and eventually losing the Democratic primary to Jerry Brown, who went on to win the race.

Jerome Russell Waldie was born in 1925 in Antioch, between San Francisco and the state capital of Sacramento. He served three years in the Army before earning a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1950 and a law degree from UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law in 1953.

He was first elected to the Assembly in 1958, winning a Republican-leaning district in the eastern San Francisco Bay area. He became majority leader in 1961, and in 1966 carried the constitutional amendment that turned the part-time Legislature into a full-time one. Voters approved the measure that year with more than 73 percent of the vote.

In 1966, Mr. Waldie won a special election to fill a vacant seat in Congress. He was an early critic of the Vietnam War, revealing his opposition in a letter to his constituents at a time when it was not a particularly popular stand.

"I write to the parents of every GI from my district who is killed over there," he was quoted as saying in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1967. "It was no longer an isolated thing. I was writing two or three a week."

When he left Congress, he returned to his law practice. He also served on a number of commissions and boards, including the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, where he was a strong voice for farmworkers' rights.

Mr. Waldie is survived by his wife, Joanne; three children; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

-- From News Services

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