He fired Watergate prosecutor, failed to get on high court.
Robert H. Bork,whose 1980s nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected 58-42 by the Senate, dies at 85.
MCLEAN, VA. — Robert H. Bork, who stepped in to fire the Watergate prosecutor at Richard Nixon’s behest and whose failed 1980s nomination to the Supreme Court helped draw the modern boundaries of cultural fights over abortion, civil rights and other issues, has died. He was 85.
Son Robert H. Bork Jr. confirmed his father died Wednesday at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va. The son said Bork died from complications of heart ailments.
Robert Heron Bork had a long career in politics and the law that took him from respected academic to a totem of conservative grievance. Along the way, Bork was accused of being a hatchet man for Nixon when, as the thirdranking official at the Justice Department, he fired Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in the Saturday Night Massacre of 1973. Attorney General Elliot Richardson resigned rather than fire Cox. The next in line, William Ruckelshaus, refused to fire Cox and was fired.
Bork’s drubbing during the 1987 Senate nomination hearings made him a hero to the right.
The Senate experience embittered Bork and hardened many of his conservative positions, even as it gave him prominence as an author and long popularity on the conservative speaking circuit.
“Robert Bork was a giant, a brilliant and fearless legal scholar, and a gentleman whose incredible wit and erudition made him a wonderful Hudson colleague,” said Kenneth Weinstein, head of the Washington thinktank Hudson Institute where Bork was a distinguished fellow.
Known before his Supreme Court nomination as one of the foremost national experts on antitrust law, Bork became much more widely known as a conservative cultural critic in the years that followed.
His 1996 book, “Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline,” was an acid indictment of what Bork viewed as the crumbling ethics of modern society and the morally bankrupt politics of the left.
Bork, known until his death as “Judge Bork,” served a relatively short tenure on the bench.
He was a federal judge on the nation’s most prestigious appellate panel, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, from 1982 until 1988, when he resigned in the wake of the bitter Supreme Court nomination fight.
Long mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee, Bork got his chance toward the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term.
He was nominated July 1, 1987, to fill the seat vacated by Justice Lewis F. Powell.
Nearly four months later the Senate voted 5842 to defeat him, after the first national political and lobbying offensive mounted against a judicial nominee. It was the largest negative vote ever recorded for a Supreme Court nominee.
Judge Robert Bork, nominated by President Ronald Reagan to the Supreme Court, is sworn in at his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in 1987.