Robert U. Woodward was born in Geneva, Illinois, and raised in nearby
Wheaton. Woodward's father was a prominent attorney, and hoped that
Robert would follow in his footsteps. He attended Yale University
on a Naval ROTC scholarship, and majored in history and English
literature. A few weeks after receiving his B.A. degree in 1965,
he entered the United States Navy for a four-year tour of duty.
The American escalation in Vietnam had just begun. When Woodward
left the Navy, American involvement in Vietnam -- and domestic opposition
to the war -- were at their height.
At the end of his military service, Woodward applied to Harvard
Law School, and was accepted for the fall 1970 term, but he chose
to pursue a career in journalism instead. He persuaded The Washington
Post to give him an unpaid two-week try-out. Not one of the 17 stories
he filed was printed. The Post editors concluded that he was not
ready for a major metropolitan daily newspaper, and arranged for
him to take job as one of four reporters at a small suburban weekly,
The Montgomery County Sentinel.
He quickly tired of the routine assignments his position offered,
and began to hunt for news on his own. He soon became the paper's
leading reporter, and by September 1971, the Post was ready to give
him another try. He was assigned to the police beat, from 7:00 in
the evening to 3:00 in the morning, but he did not limit his work
activities to his assigned hours. By day, he circulated in the city's
government offices, and pressed civil servants for every piece of
information that might prove useful. Within a year, his by-line
was appearing on the front page.
Early one Saturday morning, June 17, 1972, the Post's city editor
called Woodward to tell him that five men with cameras and electronic
surveillance equipment had been arrested breaking into the headquarters
of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office complex.
Woodward was assigned to cover the breaking story, along with a
younger but more experienced reporter, Carl Bernstein.
Although Woodward and Bernstein were able to link the burglary of
Democratic National Headquarters to operatives inside the Nixon
White House, and to President Nixon's re-election campaign, they
were unable at first to prove any direct involvement by the President
or his senior staff to either the burglary or its subsequent cover-up.
Most news outlets dropped the story, and Nixon was re-elected in
a historic landslide.
When the Post persevered with the investigation, President Nixon
induced the FCC to challenge the licenses of the Post's television
stations. With the full support of their editor, Ben Bradlee, Woodward
and Bernstein continued to pursue the story, and little by little
uncovered a larger story of the abuse of power and the obstruction
In August 1974, the President, facing near certain impeachment and
conviction, resigned his office and accepted a blanket pardon for
any actions he may have committed in office. Woodward and Bernstein's
account of the investigation, All The President's Men, became a
national best-seller and was made into a popular motion picture.
A second book by Woodward and Bernstein on the collapse of the Nixon
administration, The Final Days, was also a huge success.
With astonishing regularity, Woodward has continued to produce best-selling
books on previously hidden aspects of American life. His works to
date include The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court; The Man Who
Would Be President: Dan Quayle; Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times
of John Belushi; Veil: The Secret Ways of the CIA; The Commanders,
a look inside the decision making process behind the 1991 Persian
Gulf War; The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House; and The Choice,
on the 1996 presidential campaign. His latest book is Bush at War.
Now an assistant managing editor at The Washington Post, Bob Woodward
is responsible for the paper's special investigative projects. The
Academy of Achievement's interview with Bob Woodward is combined
with an interview with his longtime editor and mentor, Ben Bradlee.