Dick Tuck Biography

Dick Tuck is an American political consultant, writer, campaign strategist, advance man, political candidate and the nemesis of Richard Nixon. Tuck worked on many political campaigns for national and California Democrats, including Adlai Stevenson, John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Richard Hatcher, Pat Brown and Jerry Brown.  He was editor of the Reliable Source, an informal newspaper published for many years during Democratic Party conventions and Political Editor for the National Lampoon.  Tuck resides in Tucson, Arizona.

Early Life
Tuck was born in Hayden, Arizona January 25, 1924. His father, Frank J. Tuck, was a Harvard University graduate who helped pioneer the Arizona copper industry, managing  mines in Arizona for Kennecott Copper. Dick is the youngest of the four Tuck brothers.

The Tuck Brothers; Dick is 2nd from the right

Tuck is known for his well-rounded secondary education, having completed a "tour" of four of the finest Jesuit schools in the West, including

  •  St. John's Military Academy, Los Angeles, CA
  •  Campion Jesuit High School in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin
  •  Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, California
  •  Loyola High School in Los Angeles, California.

WWII Pearl Harbor was attacked just a few weeks before Tuck's 18th birthday, and he enlisted in the Marines. Having spent many of his boyhood summers in Southern California, Tuck has a great love for aquatic activities like surfing and skin diving.  Tuck's basic training aptitude tests returned very high scores in the mental and physical skills required for disarming unexploded bombs and other explosives, so after receiving advanced training from the British, Tuck joined the Navy's 1st Mobile Explosive Investigation Unit (MEIU). In Britain, Tuck was taught how to combine CO2 fire extinguisher snow with pure distilled alcohol to freeze a bomb's electric fuse, thus rendering it inoperable.  For this use the unit carried with it a 40 gallon tank of alcohol. Coincidentally, the alcohol was safe for human consumption in small quantities with orange juice. Thus, Tuck spent the war touring the South Pacific dealing with the messy explosive offal of war.

Tuck meets Nixon
At war's end, Tuck returned to his educational pursuits thanks to the GI Bill, enrolling at the new University of California, Santa Barbara. There he studied political science and public administration, while taking advantage of the easy ocean-side living. UCSB was the site of Tuck's first encounter with, then, Congressman Richard Nixon who was running for the California Senate seat in 1950. Nixon's opponent was the popular Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas, a fashionable, charismatic, liberal New-Deal Democrat and two-term Congresswoman from Los Angeles. Nixon's slash and burn personal attacks on Douglas included the charge that she was a Communist sympathizer who was "pink down to her underwear." Nixon won and an enduring political relationship and rivalry was formed between Nixon and Tuck.

During the 1956 presidential election, Tuck traveled with Adlai Stevenson acting as a press liaison.  After Stevenson's defeat in November, Tuck was one of the first to begin preparation work on Edmund G. (Pat) Brown's campaign for governor of California prior to the 1958 election. With Brown's victory in 1958, Tuck became the governor's travel scheduler, legislative aide and unofficial aide de camp. At one point, Tuck served as Deputy Commissioner of Motor Vehicles.

Tuck joined the John F. Kennedy presidential primary campaign in 1960, working with the Citizens for Kennedy-Johnson organization headed by his longtime friend Fred Dutton. The morning after the first Nixon/Kennedy television debate, Tuck allegedly coached an elderly woman wearing a Nixon campaign button to go up to Nixon and give him a hug, and say, “That’s all right, son. Kennedy beat you last night, but don’t worry, you’ll get him next time!”  Tuck feels that this threw Nixon for a loop because no one, as yet, had "called" either candidate the winner, and Tuck believes this was the first indication Nixon received that anyone thought he had lost. Later during Kennedy's administration, Tuck was present in the Oval Office when the famous photos of President Kennedy's children Caroline and John were taken by Look Magazine photographer Stanley Tretick.

Nixon vs. Brown 1962
Tuck was a key aide to Governor Pat Brown during the 1962 Governor's race against his Republican opponent Richard Nixon.  It was during this campaign that Tuck pulled several of his most famous pranks on Nixon, burrowing ever deeper into Nixon's psyche.   Nixon saw the California governorship as the first step in his political come-back from the loss to Kennedy two years prior, and a safe bet given his past electoral victories as a congressman and Senator. Also, Nixon took the California presidential vote from Kennedy in 1960 by a narrow margin, so he entered the race with confidence.  But on November 6, 1962, Brown emerged the winner by a stunning 5%. In a famous political morning–after, Nixon told reporters as his "last press conference," that they were unfair to him. He accused reporters of blatantly favoring the Democrats, and ended by saying directly to the reporters in the room, "But as I leave you I want you to know -- just think how much you're going to be missing. You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference." Many thought Nixon's behavior was somewhat irrational and unbalanced that day; some believe that Tuck's pranks contributed to Nixon's state of mind. Legend has it that Tuck tricked Nixon twice during the gubernatorial campaign.  One occurred in San Luis Obispo when the train from which Nixon was speaking prematurely departed while he was in mid-speech. 

The other prank occurred in Los Angeles' Chinatown where a sign that said in English "Welcome Nixon," also said in Chinese "What about the Hughes Loan?" referring to the $205,000 unsecured loan provided by Howard Hughes to Nixon's brother Donald. Nixon later said that the Hughes loan issue cost him two elections: the 1960 presidential election and the 1962 California governor's race.

Goldwater Train 1964
During the 1964 presidential campaign Tuck continued to pester the Republican campaign of Barry Goldwater and, once again, a train tour provided the target.  In this case, Tuck smuggled a young woman posing as a freelance magazine writer, Moira O'Connor, onto the Goldwater Train, where she distributed a newsletter named appropriately The Whistle-Stop, filled with misinformation and satire. The newsletter, which was carefully placed under each compartment door, promised to "keep you advised, informed, protected and, with considerable assistance from the senator himself, amused." One item said, "We are happy to report that the railroad has assured us that fluoride is not being added to the water on this train." At the time, fluoridation of municipal water supplies was a big issue with conservatives. When the woman was caught and put off the train it was front-page news and on The New York Times, specifically, knocked the Goldwater campaign's message of the day -- that Goldwater's rivals were "soft on communism" -- further down the page.

Dick Tuck: Candidate
In 1966, Tuck tried his hand at being the candidate by running for a newly created California State senate seat. Tuck claims that he was late for a Democratic party meeting to discuss potential candidates for the party to endorse, and by the time he arrived his fellow Democrats had chosen him. Tuck applied his usual creativity to the campaign, making "The Job Needs Tuck and Tuck Needs the Job" his campaign slogan. The number of votes Tuck received is still subject to dispute, but Dick's concession speech has lived on in history: "The people have spoken . . . the bastards."

Gary, Indiana 1967
In 1967, at the request of Robert Kennedy, Tuck went to Gary, Indiana to help Richard Hatcher in his historic campaign to be the first black mayor of a major city in the United States. The local political machine would control vote totals from certain districts by jamming the voting machine and leaving them unfixed waiting for repairmen who would arrive hours later.   Tuck secretly trained his own group of pinball machine repairmen how to fix voting machines. On election day he dispatched his teams to quickly fix the machines and get on with the voting.  As a result, Hatcher won. Bobby Kennedy always said that Tuck knew a lot about corrupt machines.

Bobby Kennedy Presidential Campaign
Tuck joined the Robert Kennedy campaign after the Senator announced his candidacy in March, 1968. Once again, Tuck helped manage relations with the press, many of whom he had now known and cultivated for years. At one point his journalist friends started kidding him because Tuck was walking Kennedy's English Spaniel Freckles. "To you, this is just a dog," Tuck told them, "but to me it's an ambassadorship."


Tuck was with Bobby Kennedy the night he was assassinated after claiming victory in the California primary. Tuck was just behind Kennedy when Sirhan Sirhan shot him and he personally tended to the fallen candidate. Tuck rode to the hospital with Los Angeles police in the lead squad car.  Later the next day, Rafer Johnson gave Tuck Sirhan Sirhan's pistol, which the Olympic decathlon Gold medallist had torn from the assassin's grip just after the shooting.

In the early 1970s Tuck worked briefly for the McGovern campaign, but found little appreciation for his brand of humorous politics. Occasionally, McGovern could be funny:

Tuck: "I have the sad duty to inform you, sir, that FBI Director Hoover has passed away in Washington this morning."

McGovern: "Do you think this means he'll finally retire?" 

Tuck served also as the political editor for the National  Lampoon, sharing  an office with future film director John Hughes and collaborating with legends of humor like P.J. O'Rourke, Christopher Cerf and Michael O'Donoghue.

Watergate was the event that brought Tuck out of the shadows and made him an important historic figure in the eyes of those who love his antics and creative ideas. Tuck himself was not directly involved in the Watergate scandal, but the Republicans pointed to him as their inspiration for setting up a "Dick Tuck capability" that would harass and, as one reporter put it, discombobulate the Democrats.  Eschewing Tuck's creative approach, they resorted to the usual brutal, nasty, dirty tricks using outright lies and forgeries like the Canuck letter. Segretti's Dirty Tricks squad was part of a larger program managed from the White House that included the Plumbers' unit that burglarized the offices of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist to search for dirt about the author of the Pentagon Paper, and later twice broke into the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate complex in Washington, DC. It was during the second mission that the crew was caught red-handed by building security.

It was more than a year after the burglary, on July 13, 1973, that White House aide Alexander Butterfield testified about the White House taping system and the collection of recordings of the conversations between U.S. President Richard Nixon and various staff beginning in February 1971 and lasting until July 18, 1973.  Senate Republican Counsel and future Actor/Senator Fred Thompson courageously exposed Nixon's secret to the American public on July 16th by asking,

"Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?"

Butterfield told the committee "everything was taped ... as long as the President was in attendance. There was not so much as a hint that something should not be taped."

Thompson walked witness Butterfield through a complete review of the system on national/worldwide television. The Nixon administration would last 389 more days.

Ten days after the revelation, the special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, subpoenaed the tapes as evidence in the case against Nixon's former advisors H. R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and Attorney General John Mitchell, but Nixon refused to turn them over. Nixon claimed executive privilege until July 24, 1974, when the Supreme Court voted unanimously to order their surrender. On August 5th, the so-called "smoking gun" tape in which Nixon authorized his lieutenants to have the CIA order the FBI to stop their investigation into the Watergate break-in on the grounds that it was a national security matter. This made Nixon part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice. On August 8, 1974,  Nixon announced his resignation from office in a nationally televised speech.

Over the course of the year following the revelation of the tapes, the White House released two sets of heavily edited transcripts of Nixon meetings in the Oval Office. Finally, full, unedited transcripts were released in August after the Supreme Court decision, more than a year after the news broke.  But, it would take even longer for the people of the United States to actual hear the incriminating conversations.

Tuck helped give the public its first listen to the Watergate tapes at a press conference he conducted on October 21, 1980 at the Aspen Hotel's Jerome Bar. Amazingly, by this time no tape excerpts had been played on the national media, only transcripts had been released because the National Archives would not allow the public any access to the tapes beyond listening to them at the Archive building. No one was allowed to record the tapes.  Tuck said he had acquired copies of the tapes from a source not affiliated with the White House or the National Archives and, hence, they were legally safe to play in public. For an hour he played excerpts, which the media recorded and later re-played on their network news programs, giving the public a more reality-based and detailed feel for how their leaders behaved. It was seven years after the burglary.

The tapes confirm Nixon's paranoia about Tuck. Conversations between Nixon and aides, including H.R. Haldeman, focused on the Republican's plans to create a group that would engage in Tuck-like activities.

"Dick Tuck did that to me. Let's get out what Dick Tuck did!" Nixon told Haldeman according to the transcripts.

Segretti's group, who called themselves "The Ratfuckers" practiced traditional Republican gutter politics. One example is a letter forged by Segretti on Democratic candidate  Edmund Muskie's letterhead falsely charging that U.S. Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, a Democrat, had fathered an illegitimate child with a 17-year-old.  Another letter, purportedly a letter to the editor of the extremely conservative Manchester Union Leader, claimed its author had heard Muskie use the derogatory term for Canadians, "Canucks" and disparage French Canadian culture and language.

During the Watergate hearings in the Capitol Building, Tuck encountered H. R. Haldeman, who Nixon had cut loose the month before along with John Ehlichman.

"You started all of this," said the ex-chief of staff of the White House.

Replied Tuck: "Yeah, Bob, but you guys ran it into the ground."

Tuck is the father of a son, Gregory, who lives in Australia where he runs a printing concern. 

In 1987 Tuck met and wooed Joyce Daly, professional writer and communications producer in New York City.  They married in 1989 at the Woody Creek Tavern in Aspen. Colorado.

Tuck's good friend, Hunter Thompson, “autographed," as a wedding gift. a copy of his book “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail” with his .357 Magnum. Joyce and

Dick and Joyce lived in Parachute, Colorado and travelled extensively until her sudden and unexpected death in 1995.

Tuck retired to Tucson, Arizona, not far from where he was born in Hayden.

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