Jeb Stuart Magruder, a former White House aide and political operative who confessed to his role in the 1972 Watergate break-in, the bungled crime that he claimed — decades later — had been personally ordered by President Richard Nixon, died Sunday in Danbury, Conn. He was 79.
His death, from complications of a stroke, was announced on the website of Hull Funeral Service in Connecticut.
Mr. Magruder served seven months in federal prison after admitting that he had helped plan the break-in of the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington and helped attempt to cover it up by lying to investigators and perjuring himself in court.
The scandal led to Nixon's resignation in August 1974.
After his release, Mr. Magruder became an ordained Presbyterian minister and spoke publicly about the runaway ambition and unchecked loyalty that he said led him astray. He was convinced, he said, that "it's a characteristic in American life that there is redemption."
A former executive at cosmetics companies and Republican campaign staffer, Mr. Magruder joined the Nixon White House in 1969. Boyish and handsome, he served as deputy director of the Committee for the Re-Election of the President in 1972 and, after that, as director of the president's inaugural committee.
As the Watergate drama unfolded, he became one of the first Nixon associates to provide investigators with evidence of the conspiracy.
Mr. Magruder said that former Attorney General John Mitchell approved the Watergate break-in, which Mitchell denied. Three decades later, in 2003, Mr. Magruder made news by telling interviewers that he was with Mitchell and heard Nixon, over the phone, approve the break-in.
The claim was not universally accepted but was regarded as a bombshell in the long effort to uncover what the president had known and when he had known it. Some historians found it implausible, citing Nixon's practice of recording conversations, while other observers questioned why Mr. Magruder had waited so long to make the revelation.