Updated 2:07 p.m.
There’s a new home for a famous piece of Washington legal history: the original subpoena served on President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.
Rufus Edmisten, who as a Senate Watergate Committee staff attorney took the document to the White House, has donated that and other documents to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Wilson Special Collections Library, the university announced Tuesday.
Edmisten served the subpoena for Watergate tapes on July 23, 1973, when he was deputy chief counsel to the Watergate Committee chaired by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina. He had worked for Ervin for 10 years at that point.
In a 1992 interview during a Watergate reunion, Edmisten described the encounter this way:
“I delivered the subpoena on Richard Nixon. Well the myth was that he wouldn’t take it from me. Well, frankly, I never saw him. They wouldn’t let me near him. … I got through about five doors. I gave it to Leonard Garment. He was one of his many counsels, and Professor Charles Alan Wright, and I also left him a Constitution. I said, ‘I think you need it.’ ”
In a phone interview today, Edmisten said he had no idea he had the document until recently, when his wife was going through an old box kept in the closet labeled "Washington Years Papers."
"I thought I had turned it in to the committee," Edmisten said. "My wife actually found it, and walked in and said, "Is this what I think it is?"
Edmisten said he determined the right place for the subpeona was with a collection of Sam Ervin's papers at the library.
Edmisten will mark the donation of his papers with a public talk at UNC on September 20. The library will display the subpoena from Edmisten’s papers as well as Nixon’s letter of refusal from Ervin’s papers.
Edmisten graduated from UNC in 1963 and later from George Washington University Law School. After his years on Ervin’s staff, he returned to North Carolina. He was elected the state’s attorney general in 1974 and was secretary of state from 1988 to 1996, and now is a partner at Edmisten, Webb & Moore in Raleigh.