An FBI man, once afraid of being seen as a traitor, instead received a hero's farewell Friday when famed Watergate reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward honored their friend and source, Mark Felt, forever known as Deep Throat.
"Thank God for Mark Felt," Woodward told Felt's admirers gathered for his memorial service.
The words, Woodward said, were those of former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, spoken this week as Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee spoke about how to best remember the source that guided them through the Watergate investigation which led to President Richard Nixon's resignation.
"There is an unknown source and an unknown force behind every great story in history," Woodward recalled Bradlee saying this week. "He was that source and that force in the Nixon administration."
Friday afternoon's memorial drew about 350 people to the Glaser Center in downtown Santa Rosa, where Bernstein, Woodward, FBI officials and Felt's family gathered to say goodbye to the nation's most famous informant. Felt died Dec. 18 at his west Santa Rosa home of congestive heart failure. He was 95.
Felt's passing was, Bernstein said, "the closing of a circle."
Felt was second in command of the FBI and one of the first to learn about what came to be known as Watergate, the hotel break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters in Washington in 1972.
"What Mark Felt was confronted with at the time was nothing less than a war organized, well-practiced and well-funded by President Richard Nixon. A war aimed at the system of justice," Woodward said. "Mark's great decision in all of this was his refusal to be silenced."
Over the following year he leaked information about the break-in and coverup to the two young Post reporters, Woodward and Bernstein.
"He steered and helped us, but the real help was in insisting that we do our job," Woodward said. "He always said, 'Get to work. Dig. The story is there. Put it together. See the pieces.' The subtext always was 'Are you dumb' Don't you get it?'
Felt insisted on anonymity as a source and used spy-like techniques to meet secretly with Woodward.
Speaking with the press "did not fit his way of doing things," Bernstein said of Felt. But "his higher sense of duty and honor prevailed."
Felt feared the public would think he had dishonored the FBI by leaking information and refused to acknowledge his role in Woodward and Bernstein's reporting.
He kept the secret for 33 years, only revealing himself in 2005 as the source that a Post editor dubbed Deep Throat, named for a pornographic movie popular at the time.
Woodward and Bernstein, who had scrupulously kept his identity secret, quickly confirmed.
On Friday, Woodward added his own definition of Mark Felt to Bradlee's.
"He was a truth teller," he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Laura Norton at 521-5220 or firstname.lastname@example.org.