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Leonidas "Leon" Jaworski (September 19, 1905 – December 9, 1982) was the second Special Prosecutor during the Watergate Scandal. Jaworski was appointed to that position on November 1, 1973, soon after the Saturday Night Massacre of October 19 and October 20, 1973 that resulted in the dismissal of special prosecutor Archibald Cox.
Jaworski was born in Waco, Texas, a child of German-speaking parents; his mother, Marie (née Mira), was an Austrian immigrant, and his father, Joseph Jaworski, was a Polish immigrant who was an Evangelical minister. He was named after ancient Spartan king Leonidas, and had a brother named Hannibal. An earnest student who studied at night by the light of oil lamps, he was a champion debater at Waco High School, and graduated from Baylor Law School and received his master's degree in law at The George Washington University Law School. In 1925 he became the youngest person ever admitted to the Texas bar. After starting out defending bootleggers during Prohibition, in 1931 he joined the Houston law firm that became Fulbright & Jaworski, one of the largest law firms in the United States.
Jaworski's grandson, Joseph "Joe" Jaworski, is currently the mayor of the city of Galveston, Texas.
On the night of August 14, 1944, the Fort Lawton Riot between black U.S. soldiers and Italian prisoners of war at Fort Lawton near Seattle, Washington resulted in Italian POW Guglielmo Olivotto being lynched, after which forty-three black soldiers were charged and twenty-eight were convicted of participating in the longest U.S. Army court-martial of World War II, prosecuted by Jaworski.
After the war, Jaworski served as a war crimes prosecutor in Germany. However, he declined to participate in the Nuremberg Trials on the grounds that the prosecution there was based on laws that did not exist at the time of the culpable acts. He became a colonel, and subsequently, in his law firm, he was commonly addressed as "Colonel Jaworski."
He was a friend of fellow Texan Lyndon Baines Johnson, representing him in a lawsuit filed to prevent him from campaigning for the US Senate from Texas at the same time he was running for vice-president during 1960, which he won. However, Jaworski did not always support Democratic candidates. He supported Richard Nixon and voted for him twice, contributed to George H.W. Bush in his campaign for the presidency in 1980, and after Bush conceded the nomination he became treasurer of Democrats For Reagan during the 1980 election.
Having been convinced of his integrity, in 1980 Mr. Jaworski aided former Nixon staffer Egil "Bud" Krogh, whom he had sent to prison in 1973, in his request to be reinstated to the Washington State Bar.
At the 1976 Democratic National Convention, Jaworski, who was not a candidate received the vote of one delegate to the convention (0.03%).
Jaworski's greatest fame came from his tenure as Watergate Special Prosecutor, when he managed a protracted contest with President Richard Nixon in an attempt to secure evidence for the trial of former senior administration officials on charges relating to the Watergate cover-up. Initially believing that only Nixon's aides had committed misconduct, he learned that Nixon had discussed the Watergate cover-up with the accused on numerous occasions, and that these conversations had been recorded by the White House taping system. This discovery caused Jaworski to request tapes of sixty-four Presidential conversations as evidence for the upcoming criminal trial, but Nixon refused to release them, citing executive privilege.
After unsuccessful attempts by Nixon to reach a compromise acceptable to the special prosecutor's office, including supplying edited transcripts of some recordings, Jaworski subpoenaed the tapes. Nixon appealed on two grounds: first, that the office of Special Prosecutor did not have the right to sue the office of President; and second, that the requested materials were privileged presidential conversations. Aware that an important constitutional issue was at stake, and unwilling to wait any longer, Jaworski asked the Supreme Court to take the case directly, bypassing the Court of Appeals.
On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court ruled that the Special Prosecutor did have the right to sue the President; and that "the generalized assertion of [executive] privilege must yield to the demonstrated, specific need for evidence in a pending criminal trial". Nixon was forced to give the unedited tapes to Jaworski, including the so-called Smoking Gun Tape which included a compromising discussion of June 23, 1972. The President's remaining support waned, and he resigned on August 9, 1974.
Jaworski resigned as special prosecutor on October 25, 1974, once the cover-up trial had begun, and a new special prosecutor was appointed. Jaworski was a close friend of Dean Ernest Raba of St. Mary's University School of Law where he taught as an Adjunct Professor for several years.
In 1977 Jaworski reluctantly agreed to serve as special counsel to a House Ethics Committee investigation to determine whether members had indirectly or directly accepted anything of value from the government of the Republic of Korea. The investigation, known as Koreagate or the Tongsun Park Investigation, potentially involved hundreds of members of Congress and their families and associates, and included charges of bribery and influence-peddling via envelopes stuffed with $100 bills.
Jaworski died on December 9, 1982 while chopping wood at the Circle J Ranch near Wimberley, Texas.