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University of Texas at Austin

Bernard Shankman:

An Inventory of His Watergate Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Shankman, Bernard, 1908-2002
Title: Bernard Shankman Watergate Papers
Dates: 1971-2002 (bulk 1972- 1973)
Extent: 6 document boxes, 2 oversize boxes (osb) (4.20 linear feet)
Abstract: The Bernard Shankman Watergate Papers consist primarily of legal documents created or produced as a result of Shankman’s involvement in the legal defense of James W. McCord, Jr., a Watergate burglar and co-conspirator.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-5147
Language: English
Access: Open for research. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials.
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.
Restrictions on Use: Authorization for publication is given on behalf of the University of Texas as the owner of the collection and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder which must be obtained by the researcher. For more information please see the Ransom Center's Open Access and Use Policies.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation: Bernard Shankman Watergate Papers (Manuscript Collection MS-05147). Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
Acquisition: Gift, 2009 (09-06-002-G)
Processed by: Brian C. McNerney, 2012

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Bernard "Barney" Shankman was born in the Ukraine in 1908 and immigrated to the United States with his family at age seven, settling in Chelsea, Massachusetts, near Boston. He received his law degree from Boston University in 1932, and in 1934 moved to Washington, DC, eventually working at the Agricultural Adjustments Administration.
Shankman passed the District of Columbia bar exam in 1937. An amateur boxer himself, he focused his legal practice on amateur sports and entertainment, serving as international counsel for the World Boxing Association, president of the Touchdown Club, and vice president for the Amateur Athletic Union. His career was interrupted by service in the US Marine Corps during World War II, mostly in the DC area, after which he expanded his practice into commercial work, including tort and negligence cases.
In early July, 1972, Shankman was contacted by Gerald Alch, the principal attorney assigned to defend former CIA officer James W. McCord, Jr. following McCord’s arrest at the June 17, 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex. Alch was a partner in the Boston firm of renowned criminal defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey and hired Shankman to provide local DC legal assistance with what rapidly became an internationally followed and politically historic case.
McCord often opposed his counsels’ advice and terminated Alch’s representation in mid-May 1973. Although Shankman enjoyed a less hostile relationship with McCord, his representation was similarly terminated on May 24, 1973, when Bernard Fensterwald assumed duties as McCord’s legal counsel. McCord repeatedly alleged that Alch tried to coerce him into adopting a "CIA defense," placing responsibility on McCord’s former employer. Both Alch and Shankman consistently and emphatically denied the accusation.
Shankman’s interest in highlighting his work in McCord’s defense seemed muted, as he omitted mention of it in the biographical highlights for an article that celebrated his legal career in a 1990 issue of Washington Lawyers, a professional trade journal.
Shankman married Barbara Robertson, with whom he had three children, Gregory, Gary, and Deborah. Shankman passed away on February 9, 2002.


Greenyea, John. "Golden Lawyers." In Washington Lawyer, Vol. 5.1 (September- October 1990): 30-41, 64.
McCord, James W., Jr. A Piece of Tape: The Watergate Story: Fact and Fiction. Washington, DC: Washington Media Services, 1974.
Washington Post, February 9, 2002, page B7, "Metro" [obituary].

Scope and Contents

The Bernard Shankman Watergate Papers consist primarily of legal documents created or produced as a result of Shankman’s participation between 1972 and 1973 in the legal defense of James McCord, Jr., a Watergate burglar and co-conspirator in the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Gerald "Gerry" Alch served as McCord’s first principal defense attorney, and called upon Shankman to serve as local counsel, to help coordinate court appearances, and to serve as a supporting conduit for communicating with McCord. The Shankman Papers include public legal documents filed during all phases of the investigation, pre-trial actions, trials, appeals, copies of evidence used, grand jury testimony and affidavits, selected correspondence, and numerous notes produced by Shankman, often handwritten and sometimes illegible. The collection is arranged into four series: I. Legal Firm Administration and Correspondence; II. Legal Process Actions; III. Evidence; and IV. Photographs and Newspapers.
Series I. Legal Firm Administration and Correspondence includes biographical material on Shankman and materials created or received by Shankman in his duties as assisting attorney to McCord, including selected communications between McCord and other lawyers. Among the notable documents in the series is a signed draft of James McCord’s letter to Judge John Sirica (folder 1.13), composed March 19, 1973, which dramatically changed the direction of the trial and the Watergate investigation. In the letter, McCord alleged that the defendants had all been coerced to perjure themselves during the trial and strongly implied that senior members of the Nixon administration were directly involved in planning, directing, and funding the activities for which the defendants were being tried.
Series II. Legal Process Actions consists of routine processing in support of the defense, mostly in the form of formal actions filed in court (such as motions, orders, appeals, etc.), and thus are public record in nature.
Series III. Evidence includes exhibits and exhibit listings as well as individual files of evidence for each of the seven defendants arrested on the night of the Watergate break-in (Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, James McCord, and Frank Sturgis) and the two other co-conspirators arrested soon after (Hunt and Liddy). The use of aliases by the defendants often complicates understanding of the sequence of events and activities that lead to their arrests. Sometimes, the conspirators adopted an alias that had previously been used by another member of the group, such as Frank Sturgis’ use of the name "Edward Joseph Hamilton," which had previously been employed by E. Howard Hunt. The Series III. file headed "Sturgis," (folder 4.22) is illustrative of how aliases can confuse the identities of the key players, as are Series IV. photographs of evidence (osb 7) bearing the alias names by which the detained men identified, or sought to disguise, themselves.
Series IV. Photographs and Newspapers includes a small collection of black and white photographic prints depicting evidence seized at the scene of the Watergate break-in, and an extensive body of newspaper clippings from prominent papers that covered the Watergate crisis.
As Shankman’s defendant, McCord’s involvement in the Watergate conspiracy is the central focus of the papers, and in light of the dramatic deterioration of his relationship with his attorneys, and McCord’s legal and public actions in response to that erosion, his grand jury testimony (folder 5.28) provides key insight into the broader content of the rest of the collection.
One aspect of McCord and Shankman’s relationship that pervades the papers is the attorney-client status at different times. Within Series I., several documents note the status, such as a May 23, 1973, document signed by McCord waiving his right to attorney-client privilege (folder 1.14). In addition, a Shankman deposition for one of several trials resulting from McCord’s lawsuits against his former attorneys contains an unambiguous reference to additional waivers invoked by McCord (folder 1.5). In his 1974 book, A Piece of Tape, McCord alleged that Alch, and possibly also Shankman, violated his attorney-client privilege during the time they were defending him in court.
The majority of materials in the collection are photocopies. Where material is handwritten, or consists principally in a handwritten format, it is noted in the container list. When present, Shankman’s original folder headings are used in the container list and many of the original folders have been retained in the collection.

Related Material

The Ransom Center’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein Watergate Papers contain materials topically related to the Shankman Papers.
The following materials include legal actions involving James McCord, and are available at the National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, DC and College Park, Maryland: Watergate-Related Criminal, Civil and Miscellaneous Case Files from the United States District Court of the District of Columbia (from Record Group 21). See especially, Criminal Cases 1827-72, US v. George Gordon Liddy, Everette Howard Hunt, James W. McCord, Bernard L. Barker, Eugenio Martinez, Frank A. Sturgis, and Virgilio Gonzalez. See also Civil Actions: 1233-72 The Democratic National Committee and Lawrence F. O’Brien v. James W. McCord, The Committee to Re-elect the President, Bernard Barker, Eugenio R. Martinez, Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, McCord Associates, John Doe and other conspirators as well as civil actions 1207-73 and 1630-73.

Index Terms


Alch, Gerald (Gerry).
Bailey, F. Lee (Francis Lee), 1933- .
Fensterwald, Bernard.
McCord, James W. (James Walter).

Subject Terms

Committee for the Re-election of the President.
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994.
Pentagon Papers.
United States. Central Intelligence Agency.
Watergate Affair, 1972-1974.
Wiretapping--United States.

Document Types

Legal documents.

Container List