Melvin Laird, Vietnam War defense secretary, dies at 94

Posted at 12:44 PM, Nov 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-17 12:44:04-05

FORT MYERS, Fla.  (AP) - President Richard Nixon's first defense secretary, Melvin Laird, has died. He was 94.

Laird's grandson, Raymond Dennis Large III, confirmed that he died Wednesday at a hospital in Fort Myers.

The former Wisconsin congressman helped engineer the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. The Vietnam War had divided the country and killed some 58,000 U.S. troops.

Laird's legacy also included a telephone call that eventually played a role in the Watergate scandal that drove Nixon from office.

Laird was Nixon's counselor on domestic affairs in October 1973 when Nixon had to replace Vice President Spiro Agnew, who had resigned in scandal. Laird called his good friend, Michigan Congressman Gerald Ford, to ask if he would be interested in replacing Agnew.

Ford accepted. Ford later became president after Nixon resigned.