Geoffrey Carroll Shepard (born November 7, 1944) is an American lawyer, author and lecturer. He is best known for his work on the Nixon White House staff and his subsequent efforts to document policy initiatives of the Nixon Administration—and to present an alternative view of the Watergate scandal that drove President Nixon from office.
Early Life: Geoff Shepard was born in Santa Barbara, California and grew up in Southern California. His graduating class from the Irvine Elementary School in 1958 consisted of only thirty-two students. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach in 1962.
He graduated from Whittier College, with high honors, in 1966, having been champion team debater, student body president and recipient of the Richard Nixon scholarship—which had been awarded by Nixon himself at a luncheon in 1965. He describes his early involvement with Richard Nixon in this 2010 interview: Interview with Hon. Geoffrey Shepard.
Shepard received his JD from the Harvard Law School, with honors, in 1969, where he was ranked in the top fifth of his class. As a 1L, he took Contracts from Professor Clark Byse, the model for Professor Kingfield in John Osborne’s The Paper Chase (1970). Many believe that Byse’sdestruction of Shepard in the third week of class was the inspiration of that portion of Osborne’s novel. Shepard’s essay about their clash—and subsequent mentorship—was written as a eulogy on Professor Byse’s passing on October 9, 2007 (Clark Byse.pdf).
Legal Career: Upon graduation from Harvard, Shepard was selected as a 1969-1970 White House Fellow, one of fifteen young Americans chosen to spend that year studying the operation of the Executive Branch. He spent his year at the Treasury Department, as Special Assistant to the Secretary, where he was assigned to Undersecretary for monetary affairs, Paul A. Volcker.
At the conclusion of his Fellowship year, Shepard was hired by John D. Ehrlichman, Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs, onto his Domestic Council staff. That staff, the counterpart to the National Security Council staff under Henry Kissinger, helped President Nixon to decide upon policy initiatives on domestic issues of national importance. Shepard’s immediate superior was Egil (“Bud”) Krogh, later to become notorious as the head of the White House Plumbers Unit. Shepard succeeded Krogh as Associate Director for General Government in November, 1972 and was re-appointed to that position by President Ford in August of 1974. He left the White House staff on March 31, 1975, having authored hundreds of policy memoranda for Presidents Nixon and Ford and their senior staff.
During the unfolding of the Watergate scandal, Shepard also functioned as principal deputy to J. Fred Buzhardt, President Nixon’s Watergate defense counsel. In that capacity, he helped to transcribe the White House tapes, was placed in charge of the Document Rooms holding the seized files of John Dean, John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman.
Upon leaving the White House staff, Shepard joined the DC law firm of Steptoe & Johnson as a senior associate, where he stayed through January of 1977. He relocated to Philadelphia and began his career as a corporate lawyer, working for INA Corporation and its successor, CIGNA Corporation from 1977-1991, in a variety of legal positions including Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Corporate Secretary, and Chief Counsel of the Property/Casual Division—CIGNA’s largest operating group.
Shepard joined the Reliance Insurance Group in 1991 as Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Reliance Insurance Company, a position he held through 1994, when he joined AXA-Equitable Company as President of the Corporate Division of Karr Barth Associates, its largest agency. Shepard retired from AXA-Equitable in 2011.
Nixon Administration Involvement: In the late 1970s, Shepard began arranging and hosting annual reunion lunches among former members of the Nixon and Ford White House staffs who had worked on various policy initiatives. This began with his former colleagues on the Domestic Council staff, but soon expanded to include presidential appointees to the Office of Management and Budget, others on the White House staff with whom they had worked, and—more recently—members of the National Security Council staff. In 2012, the group consisted of some eighty former White House colleagues. This is the only White House staff known to hold such annual reunions.
In 2008, Shepard’s book on the politics behind the successful exploitation of the Watergate scandal, The Secret Plot to Make Ted Kennedy President, Inside the Real Watergate Scandal, was published by Penguin Sentinel.
Beginning in 2010, Shepard began arranging and producing the series of Nixon Legacy Forums, which are videotaped discussions of former staff members discussing various Nixon Administration policy initiatives. The forums are co-sponsored by the Richard Nixon Foundation and the National Archives—and are the only known program of this sort currently undertaken by any prior White House staff. Through June of 2012, some twenty—two such forums have been produced.
House Restoration: Geoff and his wife of almost forty years, Saundra, spent much of the period from 2005-2010 restoring an English Arts & Crafts estate in Rose Valley, which is a suburb of Philadelphia. An article on their restoration was the cover story in the January/February, 2010 issue of issue of Old House Journal (http://www.oldhousejournal.com/an-arts-crafts-gem-restored/magazine/1659). Their restoration also won the 2010 Grand Jury Award for residential restoration by the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.