Who Was Mark Felt?
Mark Felt was a law enforcement officer who worked for the FBI and is best known for his role in the Watergate scandal. In 1972, Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein received information from a high-level government official who was given the moniker "Deep Throat." He told them that former CIA agent and Richard Nixon staff member Howard Hunt was involved in the Watergate scandal. The evidence eventually led to President Nixon’s resignation in August 1974. In a 2005 magazine article, Felt was revealed to be "Deep Throat."
Early Life and Education
William Mark Felt was born on August 17, 1913, in Twin Falls, Idaho. Felt was the son of Mark, a carpenter and building contractor, and Rose Dygert.
After graduating from Twin Falls Senior High School in 1931, Felt attended the University of Idaho. He received his bachelor's degree in 1935. After college, Felt moved to Washington, D.C., to work for U.S. Senator James Pope. He continued to work with Pope's successor in the Senate, David Worth Clark, during the day. At night, he attended the George Washington University Law School. He earned his law degree in 1940 and took a position at the Federal Trade Commission, but he did not enjoy the work.
Beginning of FBI Career
In 1941, the same year he was accepted into the bar, Felt began the necessary training to become an FBI agent. He started working for the bureau on January 26, 1942. His first field post was in Texas, on assignment in Houston and San Antonio. Several years later, he returned to Washington, D.C. to work the Espionage Section of the Domestic Intelligence Division, tracking down Axis spies and saboteurs during World War II.
His post was eventually dissolved in 1945, but Felt's performance during his assignment at the Major Case desk caught the attention of then-director J. Edgar Hoover. After serving as a top agent in places such as Seattle, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, Felt returned to Washington in 1962, where he helped oversee training at the FBI Academy.
In 1964, Felt was named as head of the bureau's inspection division. He worked in this capacity until July 1, 1971, when Hoover promoted Felt to Deputy Associate Director, the third-highest position in the FBI. In May 1972, Hoover died in his sleep and President Nixon appointed L. Patrick Gray as acting director of the FBI. Felt was assigned to the post of Associate Director shortly thereafter, becoming second in command at the bureau.
The Watergate Scandal
On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into Democratic National Committee headquarters. The incident became a national scandal, nicknamed "Watergate" after the name of the office complex in which the events took place. As second in command, Felt was asked to head the bureau's investigation into the break-in to determine the extent, if any, of White House involvement. On June 19, 1972, Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein received information from a high-level government official who was given the moniker "Deep Throat."
During the phone call, Deep Throat told the journalists that former CIA agent and Nixon staff member Howard Hunt was definitely involved in the Watergate scandal. The hot tip gave journalists enough leverage to call for a widespread investigation of the White House's activities, which significantly sped up what would have otherwise become a slow and lengthy trial. The televised trials in 1973 revealed a string of criminal acts involving campaign fraud, political espionage, breaking and entering and illegal wiretapping that all led back to President Nixon and his staff. The evidence eventually led to Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974. Yet even after the trial, the identity of the man known as Deep Throat remained a mystery.
Deep Throat Revealed
Felt retired from the FBI on June 22, 1973. Decades later, after he suffered a stroke and encountered serious illness, his daughter, Joan, persuaded him to go public. On May 31, 2005, he broke his silence in an issue of Vanity Fair. The article revealed Felt's identity as Deep Throat, and Woodward and Bernstein later confirmed this to be fact. On December 18, 2008, Felt died in his sleep after suffering from congestive heart failure.
Books, Film and Personal Life
Felt wrote the 1979 memoir The FBI Pyramid: From the Inside, which examined the history of the agency during the 1960s and 1970s. He also co-authored the 2006 book A G-Man's Life: The FBI, Being 'Deep Throat,' And the Struggle for Honor in Washington and Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House with author John O'Connor.
In 2017, the film, Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, starring Liam Neeson in the titular role, was released.
Felt met Audrey Robinson during their undergraduate years together at the University of Idaho. The two married in 1938 and stayed together until her death in 1984. The couple lived in Santa Rosa, California and had two children, Mark and Joan.
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