William Willard Stover, who served on Vice President Nixon’s staff, died of congestive heart failure April 22 at his home in San Diego. He had been incapacitated by a stroke and confined to his home for nearly 12 years.
A service celebrating his life was held Saturday, April 30 attended by family and close friends.
Governor Pete Wilson called his friend of more than 50 years “an absolutely delightful guy — very sharp, thoroughly honest and decent, and blessed with a great sense of humor. He was a generous and loyal friend who inspired loyalty and respect for his professional competence and style and personal integrity.
“Bill did a terrific job as chief of staff for George Murphy in the U.S. Senate, where he won deserved respect for the Senator and for himself by the way he ran Murph’s office. He was a quiet but extremely effective team leader, getting the maximum from the staff for both the Senator and his constituents.
“When he was afflicted with a terrible crippling disease, his limbs succumbed, but not his spirit. He met life with courage and good humor. I hope he knew the depth of admiration and affection in which his many friends held him, and will hold in his memory.”
Stover was raised in Claremont, California, which became the 12th Congressional District where Richard Nixon successfully ran for office. He attended the Webb School and graduated from Swarthmore College in 1952 and from Stanford Law School in 1955. After joining the California Bar, Stover enlisted in the Navy and advanced to the rank of lieutenant, soon becoming legal officer for the Anaconda Naval Base in Washington, DC.
He later served on the staff of Vice President Nixon where he met Robert Finch, Rose Mary Woods and Loie Gaunt and they remained close friends throughout the years. In 1961, Stover returned to California and joined Finch to practice law in Los Angeles while playing an important role in Richard Nixon’s campaign for Governor.
When Finch became manager of George Murphy’s bid for the United States Senate in 1964, he asked Stover to travel with candidate Murphy throughout the campaign. After Murphy won, he asked Stover to join his staff as executive assistant and later named him chief of staff.
Stover always remained in close contact with his friend Richard Nixon, and assisted him with various projects in Washington and California for decades, including service on the Committee to Re-elect the President.
Raymond K. Price, Nixon’s chief White House speech writer, called Stover “a man of great, buoyant spirit, great and good heart, always eager to be of help and always fun. He was an important part of our extended Nixon ‘family,’ and to me a valued friend for many years whose memory I will cherish.”
Up until his stroke in 1993, Stover was an enthusiastic tennis and bridge player, and lived on San Diego Bay where he swam daily, summer and winter.
He is survived by a brother, Allan, and sister-in-law Corinne, of Costa Mesa, California and two nieces, Louise of Costa Mesa and Catherine of Seattle, Washington.
Memorial donations may be sent to the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation, 18001 Yorba Linda Blvd., California 92886, and personal notes to his longtime friend Anthony Balsamo at 3024 Laurel Street, San Diego, California 92104.