YORBA LINDA — Hugh Hewitt, executive director of the Richard M. Nixon Library and Birthplace, will step down as head of California's first presidential library to resume practicing law full time, a library spokesman said Friday.
Hewitt, who oversaw the library's opening ceremonies that drew four presidents and dozens of local and national dignitaries to Yorba Linda on July 19, will be replaced by John H. Taylor, Nixon's chief of staff for 10 years.
Taylor, who will take over as executive director of the library Sept. 17, "is the natural choice for the library," said library spokesman Kevin Cartwright. "He's worked with President Nixon for 10 years, and he knows the President's record. He's very anxious to come out here. It's a great opportunity for both John and the library."
Taylor, 35, a graduate of Andover College and UC San Diego, joined Nixon's staff in 1980, Cartwright said. He is the author of "Patterns of Abuse: A Novel of Politics and Power," published in 1988.
Taylor, who Cartwright said will move to Yorba Linda with his wife, Marsha, and two children from New Jersey, where Nixon maintains an office in Saddle River, was not available for comment Friday. Hewitt also was unavailable.
Although his association with the library was brief, Hewitt stirred national controversy when he told The Times a week before the library's opening that researchers would be screened, and those seen as anti-Nixon would be denied access to the former President's papers and records.
Hewitt singled out Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, who won a Pulitzer Prize with colleague Carl Bernstein for coverage of the Watergate scandal, as one potential researcher who would be denied access to the facility. "He's not a responsible journalist," Hewitt said at the time.
The screening policy was rescinded after protests from scholars and journalists across the country. Hewitt said he revoked the plan because he had imposed it without first consulting Nixon.
Library officials on Friday said that Hewitt's resignation as executive director was planned several months ago and was not connected to the screening controversy.
"For many, many months he's been concentrating on the successful opening of the library," Cartwright said. "He wants to devote his full time to his law practice."
Hewitt will return to the law firm of Pettis, Tester, Kruse & Krinsky in Irvine, Cartwright said.