Watergate’s Forgotten Hero

Frank Wills, Night Watchman


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About the Book

Nearly everyone who played a significant role in the Watergate saga has been scrutinized except one key participant: night watchman Frank Wills.

On the morning of June 17, 1972, in Washington D.C, the twenty-four-year-old security guard was on duty at the Watergate Office Building when he detected a break-in. A high school dropout with only a few hours of formal guard training, Wills alerted the police who caught five burglars, ultimately igniting a national political scandal that ended with the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

The only African American identified with the Watergate affair, Frank Wills enjoyed a brief moment in the limelight, but was unable to cope with his newfound fame, living the remainder of his life in obscurity and poverty. Through exhaustive research and numerous interviews, the story of America’s most famous night watchman finally has been told.

About the Author(s)

Adam Henig’s writings have appeared Time, Tampa Bay Times, Washington Independent Review of Books, BlackPast, San Francisco Book Review and History News Network.

Bibliographic Details

Adam Henig

Foreword by JaQwan J. Kelly

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 213
Bibliographic Info: 23 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8480-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4315-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Foreword by JaQwan J. Kelly 1
Preface 3
1. “Impenetrable” Security 7
2. The ­­Break-In 10
3. Savannah 19
4. North Augusta 33
5. Job Corps 42
6. Watergate 50
7. Metro Police 59
8. The Caper 67
9. Opportunity Knocks 80
10. Delusions of Grandeur 90
11. From Bad to Worse 109
12. Downward Spiral 128
13. “I’ve Done My Work” 144
Epilogue 159
Chapter Notes 165
Bibliography 183
Index 195

Book Reviews & Awards

• “In the plethora of works on the 1970s and the Watergate scandal, Frank Wills is often only mentioned in passing (and even then, rarely named) or relegated to obscurity in footnotes. Yet, as the 24-year-old security guard who first discovered evidence of a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Office Building in Washington, D.C., Wills played a singular role in the unraveling of America’s biggest political scandal. In this absorbing biography, Henig offers the first serious and systematic examination of Watergate through the lens of Wills. …this book convincingly portrays the Watergate figure as a 20th-century hero. …this is a powerful, tragic biography of a man who, in the words of Bob Woodward, was ‘the only one in Watergate who did his job perfectly.’ A remarkably well-researched and definitive account of an unheralded American hero.”—Kirkus Reviews

• “It takes generosity of spirit, and often the talents of a fine detective, to find poetry in the life of a common man. Adam Henig has those qualities, and the tale he tells of the life of Frank Wills is both tragic, and illuminating, in his capable hands.”—John A. Farrell, author of Richard Nixon: The Life

• “Absorbing…compelling biography.”—Herb Boyd, author of Baldwin’s Harlem: A Biography of James Baldwin

• “Adam Henig provides a sensitive look into the life of a unique character in the Watergate scandal.”—Joseph Rodota, author of The Watergate: Inside America’s Most Infamous Address

• “A moving exposition.”—Carol McCabe Booker, contributor, Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter’s Account of the Civil Rights Movement

• “Adam Henig, through his exhaustive research, gives Wills his dignity and honor back.”—Don Rhodes, columnist, The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle