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Frank Wills

June 17, 2011

huge discovery – If you’ve heard the name Frank Wills in a movie, it’s because his name was made famous through the infamous Watergate scandal of the 1970’s. Wills was working as a private security guard at the Watergate Office building in 1972 when he noticed a piece of duct tape on a door lock while making his usual rounds. After taking it off, he went about his business, only to find that one of the burglars had replaced the tape over a lock. Wills could’ve ignored it, but instead, he called the police, which led to the arrest of five men in the biggest Washington scandal in history. Because of his instinct, President Richard Nixon resigned and several administrators in the White House were indicted and convicted. After his exposure, the life of Frank Wills changed was changed forever. He quit his job as a security guard when he didn’t receive a raise for his huge discovery, which led to high-profile experiences in music and movies. In a Hollywood replay of the Watergate scandal, Wills would play his own part, particularly in “All the President’s Men,” nominated for eight Academy Awards. The song, “The Ballad of Frank Wills,” was written by Ron Turner in his honor. There would be other songs dedicated to him, and he would go on to work for Dick Gregory, live for some time in the Bahamas and appear on talk shows. But eventually, it all came crashing down after he was unable to hold down a job (Little Know Black History Facts: Frank Wills).

racial profiling – Wills found it hard to get a job after Watergate. One Washington area university told Wills they were afraid to hire him for fear their federal funds might be cut. Frank Wills moved back to his home state of Georgia after his mother suffered a stroke. They lived together on her $450 monthly Social Security check. Richard Nixon’s face is on a postage stamp. He and his fellow war criminal Henry Kissinger made millions of dollars off their memoirs. President Nixon’s partner in crime, Vice- President Spiro Agnew, got three years’ probation for evading taxes on bribes filched from highway contractors. Frank Wills was sentenced to a year in jail in 1983 for allegedly trying to shoplift a $12 pair of sneakers. A victim of racial profiling, Wills wasn’t arrested while leaving the store. He was nabbed just for putting the shoes in his bag. He’d wanted to surprise a friend with his gift at the check-out counter (Frank Wills ‘blew the whistle’ on Watergate).

honorable – Without Wills’s devotion to his job, there would have been no arrest of five men inside the sixth-floor offices of the Democratic National Committee in the early morning hours of June 17, 1972. It was Wills, a 24-year-old, African American, $80-a-week security guard who spotted masking tape on a door between a stairwell and a parking garage. He thought a cleaning crew might have taped over the door latch to keep it from locking, so he removed it. When he returned to the scene and saw new tape, Wills promptly called the police. Were it not for Wills’s suspicion of a break-in and his decisive action, the world most likely would never have heard the names E. Howard Hunt or G. Gordon Liddy. There would have been no “Deep Throat” and no “All the President’s Men” by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. There would have been no Pulitzer Prize for The Post, no image of a disgraced President Nixon waving goodbye before liftoff on Aug. 9, 1974, no President Gerald Ford, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, and probably no President Jimmy Carter to sweep into office on the heels of the 20th century’s greatest Washington political meltdown. But in all the stories written in The Post after Felt’s admission, Wills did not get so much as an honorable mention. It was pretty much the same way when he died of a brain tumor five years ago in an Augusta, Ga., hospital. Wills was penniless, unable to afford electricity or water and living alone in a shabby house his mother left when she died in 1993, according to an Oct. 1, 2000, Post story. The Democratic Party had recognized him with an award. So had the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And he was given a role in the movie “All the President’s Men,” playing himself. But his fame quickly faded, even as most of the other white-collar Watergate elite — crooks and journalists alike — eventually went on to bigger and better things (Courage and Cowardice).

Frank Wills (February 4, 1948 – September 27, 2000) was the security guard who discovered the truth about the Watergate Scandal break-in that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Frank Wills was born in North Augusta, South Carolina. In June 1972, Wills was working as a private security guard at the Watergate office building, the location of the Democratic National Committee headquarters. On the night of June 17, he noticed a piece of duct tape on one of the door locks when he was making his rounds. He removed it, and continued on his patrol. One of the five burglars — Frank Sturgis, Virgilio González, Eugenio Martínez, Bernard Barker and James W. McCord, Jr. — noticed that the tape had been removed, and replaced it with another piece of tape on the door (the tape was placed over the latch bolt to prevent the door from latching). When Mr. Wills returned, he saw that the tape had been replaced and called in the police. The five men were found in the building and arrested. This triggered the chain of events which exposed the Watergate scandal and eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon (Wikepedia).

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