He likes to be called "Colonel." He plotted the strategy that forced Richard Nixon to resign from the presidency. He subtly brokered the pardon that kept Nixon from coming to trial.
Now after a comfortable $200,000-a-year interlude at the helm of his huge Houston law firm, Leon Jaworski, 71, is returning to Washington to investigate another scandal: alleged Korean influence - buying on Capitol Hill.
If the past is prologue, he will leave no one entirely satisfied, and no one permanently angry. Establishmentarians will cluck approvingly that he did what he had to do - no less, but certainly no more. Outsiders will grumble that he didn't get to the heart of the matter. that he didn't do enough.
A gregarious man with a florid complexion and bulbous nose, the former Watergate prosecutor has had a remarkable career since he graduated from law school at age 18 and in 1924 became the youngest member the Texas Bar Association had ever had.
Admirers consider him compassionate and courtly, decent and yet pugnacious, dogged but considerate. Critics. such as author Robert Sherill regard him more suspiciously, as "one of those white - on - white, heavily cufflinked, wealthy Houston attorneys whose lips don't move very much when they talk."
Jaworski's new assignment is full of ironies. As the preeminent partner in the nation's fourth biggest law firm (Fulbright & Jaworski), he last arrived here in November, 1973, to take over the beleaguered Watergate pros - ?See JAWORSKI, A7, Col. 5) (JAWORSKI, From A1) ecution force amid widespread suspicions on the part of his inherited staff.
"To say that we had very little confidence in our own new boss, Leon Jaworski, on the day he was sworn in would be putting it mildly," former assistant Watergate prosecutors Richard Ben - Veniste and George Frampton wrote in their book, "Stonewall." To them, "Jaworski represented no less than the man President Nixon had procured to perpetuate the biggest fix of all time."
Indeed, the suspicions ran so deep that Jaworski's own top aides -- who included a brilliant, outspoken, occasionally impulsive counsel named Philip Lacovara -- once even considered shadowing their boss when he insisted on taking late - afternoon walks without telling anyone where he was going.
In the end, he did what he set out to do. Once covninced of Nixon's guilt in the Watergate cover - up scandal, Jaworski made up his mind to push him from the White House, but not bring him to trial.
Jaworski, it seems. was convinced that a trial and conviction would be too much for the country to take. Many believed he managed to avoid that course by subtly encouraging the Ford White House to issue the pardon. so subtly that he left no footprints.
Some of his top aides, such as the prosecution force's chief spokesman. James Doyle, were relieved and at least momentarily content with the outcome. But what Jaworski single - mindedly set out to do, and did, had its shortcomings, too.
"Who could be enthusiastic about pursuing those who had done Nixon's bidding when the top man was never going to be held accountable?" Ben - Veniste and Frampton have written. "The pardon guaranteed that many investigations would wither and die on the vine. In practical effect, our office was emasculated the day Nixon was pardoned."
Others were even more upset. Lacovara, for one, resigned in protest, denouncing the pardon as "an historical affront that undermined what the Watergate special prosecution force was all about."
Now Jaworski, old enough to be his father and then some, is coming back to Washington to replace him.
Most recently, Jaworski was in the headlines over a controversial letter he wrote on behalf of the highpowered Business Roundtable, denouncing a proposed consumer protection agency in phrases that others used to direct at Watergate, prosecutors. Jaworski attacked the consumer agency plan because he said it was "contrary to the most fundamental of our democratic principles to vest in one unelected person the authority to represent, legally and politically, the interests of all the people."
Despite the responsiveness such rhetoric suggests. Jaworski will almost certainly contrive to run the Korea investigation in the way he deems fit. In the process he will cultivate, carefully and quietly, the most influential journalists about town, but for the pencil - pushers and hallway camera crews he will remain loftily aloof, insisting on "No Comment" until, perhaps, he decides to write another book.