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Indianapolis native William Ruckelshaus, twice head of the EPA, has died

Refused order from President Nixon
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Posted at 6:50 PM, Nov 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-27 18:50:10-05

SEATTLE—William Ruckelshaus, an Indianapolis native who resigned rather than carry out an order by President Richard Nixon, has died. He was 87 and living in Seattle.

Ruckelshaus held various elected and appointed posts in Indiana and Washington, but is best remembered for his role in the Watergate scandal.

In 1973, while serving as U.S. Deputy Attorney General, Nixon ordered Ruckelshaus and Attorney General Elliot Richardson
to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who was investigating the scandal that would force the president from office one year later.

Ruckelshaus and Richardson refused and resigned in what came to be known as the "Saturday Night Massacre."

Three years earlier, Ruckelshaus became the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, a job he would return to in 1983.

Current EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler called Ruckelshaus the "father of the EPA." "Thanks to his leadership, all Americans are living with better air quality, water quality, and a cleaner and healthier environment," Wheeler said. "I am grateful for his service to the agency."

Ruckelshaus guided the EPA through the enactment of the first federal environment laws, including the Clean Air Act.

He also served as acting director of the FBI.

Born in Indianapolis in 1932, Ruckelshaus practiced law in his home town, and was a deputy state attorney general and a state representative.

He almost became a U.S. Senator. As a Republican, Ruckelshaus took on incumbent Birch Bayh in 1968. Bayh was elected to a second term, with 51% of the vote.

Later in life, Ruckelshaus would cross party lines and show support for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He was critical of President Donald Trump for calling climate change a hoax.

In 2015, Ruckelshaus was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.

The Ruckelshaus name lives on in Indiana politics. His nephew, John Ruckelshaus, is a state senator representing parts of Marion and Hamilton County.

CNN contributed to this report