2005 National Medal of Arts
President George W. Bush and Laura Bush present the National Medal of Arts award to Leonard Garment. White House photo by Eric Draper.
For the past 35 years, Leonard Garment, in his capacities as Presidential counsel, Congressional advisor, and citizen, has fulfilled his commitment to helping the United States Government find a reasoned approach to funding the arts.
Leonard Garment's first career was as a jazz saxophonist, working with such luminaries as Billie Holiday and Woody Herman. Garment's bandmates included Larry Rivers, later acclaimed as a painter, and a young flautist-saxophonist named Alan Greenspan, who would one day become chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.
After graduating in 1949 from Brooklyn Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Brooklyn Law Review, Garment began his law career with the firm later known as Nixon Mudge. He became head of the firm's litigation department, helped tutor Richard Nixon in appellate argument, and played a major role in organizing Nixon's 1968 Presidential campaign.
In 1969, Garment joined Nixon's White House staff as special consultant to the president for domestic policy, focusing on civil rights and the arts and especially on the National Endowment for the Arts. During the five years of Nixon's presidency, Garment worked closely with NEA Chairman Nancy Hanks to increase the agency's annual appropriation from $9 million to $80 million.
During the Watergate scandal, Garment was Counsel to the President following the resignation of John Dean. After Nixon's resignation, Garment served as assistant to President Ford, who named him U.S. representative to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, where he served until 1977. He was also counselor to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations, working with Ambassador Daniel P. Moynihan, from 1975 to 1976. During this period, he served as chairman of the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
In 1990, Congress called upon him to co-chair an Independent Commission established to review the role and work of the NEA. In 1997, he published a memoir, Crazy Rhythm: My Journey from Brooklyn, Jazz, and Wall Street to Nixon's White House, Watergate and Beyond.... (Times Books). His second book, In Search of Deep Throat: The Greatest Political Mystery of Our Time, (Basic Books), a treatise on the legendary Watergate informer and his significance for modern American politics, made national headlines with its publication in 2000.
In 2003, Garment and his family moved back home to New York. There he began work on a new project, the Jazz Museum in Harlem, which is now an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress. In addition, Garment is currently an adjunct professor at Brooklyn Law School.
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