WASHINGTON, D.C.—Ron Ziegler, press secretary to President Richard M. Nixon, died of a heart attack last week in his home in Coronado, Cal.
Ziegler was known for referring to the Watergate break-in as a “third-rate burglary” and for steadfastly defending President Nixon as controversy over Watergate mounted.
John Dean, the White House counsel in the Nixon administration, included Ziegler on his list of four people who may have been Deep Throat, the secret source for investigative reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Ziegler denied playing that role.
Ziegler was born in Covington, Ky., attended Xavier University on a football scholarship, and later found a part-time job at Disneyland, where he drove the jungle cruise boat. He graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in politics and government in 1961, and during his term there he handled press arrangements for Nixon’s visit to campus. Soon after, he was asked to become press officer for the Republican state committee.
In 1962 he went to work for H. R. Haldeman, who was managing Nixon’s campaign or governor and also headed the Los Angeles office of J. Walter Thompson. Ziegler became an account representative with the ad agency, and later followed Haldeman to work on Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign. When Haldeman became Nixon’s chief of staff, Mr. Ziegler became his spokesman.
After leaving the White House, he worked for Syska and Hennessy, a Washington consulting firm, and later served as president of the National Association of Truck Stop Operators and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. He retired in 1998.