Leonard Garment ’49, counsel to President Richard Nixon, former member of the BLS Board of Trustees, and, most recently, Adjunct Professor of Law, died on July 12. He was 89.
The son of immigrant parents, Garment was raised in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville. He was a model law student, graduating first in his class, serving as editor of the Brooklyn Law Review, and representing BLS in the first national moot court competition. His academic credentials led him to the firm of Mudge, Stern, Williams, & Tucker, where he met and befriended Nixon, a fellow law partner who was building a political career. Following the presidential election victory in 1968, Garment joined the Nixon Administration as an informal liaison with Israel and the American Jewish community. He also advised Nixon on cultural affairs, Native Americans, and civil rights.
In 1973, he became counsel to the President, and during the Watergate affair urged him not to obstruct justice by destroying tapes of White House conversations. When Nixon resigned in 1974, Garment stayed on with President Ford briefly, helping to persuade him to pardon Nixon. Garment was later appointed U.S. Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, before eventually returning to Washington. His work included defending NSA Adviser Robert McFarlane during the Iran-Contra hearings, and representing Robert Bork when he was being considered for the Supreme Court.
Garment also found success outside of law. Before law school, he played tenor saxophone in big bands with such artists as Billie Holiday and Woody Herman. His passion for music later led to his founding the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, for which he served as chairman. Garment also authored two books: Crazy Rhythm: My Journey from Brooklyn, Jazz, and Wall Street to Nixon’s White House, Watergate, and Beyond (1997), a memoir, and In Search of Deep Throat: The Great Political Mystery of Our Time (2000). Reviewers called his writing “absorbing,” “eloquent,” and “refreshingly candid.”
Garment is survived by his second wife, Suzanne; his daughter, Dr. Ann Garment; and his brother, Martin Garment. Garment’s first wife died in 1977. Another daughter died in 2011, and his son died in 2012.