STA, 6 May 2019 - The Slovenian-born foreman of Watergate grand jury, Vladimir Pregelj, died on Saturday, a day before turning 92. The long-serving Library of Congress researcher helped Slovenia immensely during independence efforts.
Pregelj was born in Murska Sobota in 1927 and later moved to Ljubljana. After the Second World War, he came to the US as a refugee in 1945.
After graduating from Saint Joseph's College in Indiana, he served in the US army and then obtained US citizenship. He got a master's degree from the Fordham University in New York.
In 1957, he got a job at the Library of Congress as a specialist for international trade.
As the foreman of Watergate grand jury No. 1, he wrote a letter to US President Richard Nixon on 30 January 1974, summoning him to testify in person before his fellow citizens.
The hearing did not take place, because Nixon resigned in August 1974 after it became clear that the Congress would impeach him.
During Slovenia's independence efforts in the late 1980s, Pregelj helped Slovenian politicians and diplomats get in touch with US congressmen and other influential people in Washington.
Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar has already expressed his condolences to Pregelj's family. In a tweet on Sunday, he said that Pregelj was an "intellectual and a great Slovenian who helped open congressmen's doors to Slovenian diplomats."
He noted he had met him this February at a Culture Day reception in Washington.
The memorial service is expected to be held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Catholic church in the United States and in North America.
Pregelj's ashes are later to be buried at the Ljubljana Žale cemetery. But the decision on this will be made by his 72-year-old wife Lea Plut Pregelj.
The Washington Post interviewed Pregelj in mid-April as the foreman of Watergate grand jury. While he was tight-lipped about President Donald Trump, he did say that the information on Russia's interfering with the 2016 US election gathered by special counsel Robert S. Mueller should be made public.
Pregelj told the paper he had been disappointed that justice did not run its course with Nixon, because there had been enough cause for indicting him.
Pregelj's wife said her husband had always been very secretive about his work on the Nixon case and that he only talked about his time on the Watergate panel four years after their wedding in 1980.