Peter Rodino, the son of an immigrant Italian carpenter, was born in Newark, New Jersey on 7th July, 1909. His speech was badly affected by a childhood bout of diphtheria. To solve the problem "he spent hours reciting Shakespeare through a mouth full of marbles". After leaving high school Rodino endured ten years of menial jobs while studying at night for a law degree at the New Jersey Law School.
In 1938 he joined a local law firm. During the Second World War he served with the First Armored Division in North Africa and Italy (1941-46). He also went on military missions with the Italian Army and as a result won the Knight of Order of Crown from Italy.
A member of the Democratic Party he was elected to the Eightieth Congress in 1948. He was subsequently re-elected for 19 terms. A strong advocate of racial equality he was one of the main sponsors of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).
In January, 1973, Frank Sturgis, E. Howard Hunt, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, Bernard L. Barker, Gordon Liddy and James W. McCord were convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping. President Richard Nixon continued to insist that he knew nothing about the case or the payment of "hush-money" to the burglars. However, in April 1973, Nixon forced two of his principal advisers H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, to resign. A third adviser, John Dean, refused to go and was sacked. On 20th April, Dean issued a statement making it clear that he was unwilling to be a "scapegoat in the Watergate case".
On 25th June, 1973, John Dean testified that at a meeting with Richard Nixon on 15th April, the president had remarked that he had probably been foolish to have discussed his attempts to get clemency for E. Howard Hunt with Charles Colson. Dean concluded from this that Nixon's office might be bugged. On Friday, 13th July, Alexander P. Butterfield appeared before the Sam Ervin Senate Committee and was asked about if he knew whether Nixon was recording meetings he was having in the White House. Butterfield reluctantly admitted details of the tape system which monitored Nixon's conversations.
Alexander P. Butterfield also said that he knew "it was probably the one thing that the President would not want revealed". This information did indeed interest Archibald Cox and Sam Ervin demand that Richard Nixon hand over the White House tapes. Nixon refused and so Cox appealed to the Supreme Court.
On 20th October, 1973, Nixon ordered his Attorney-General, Elliot Richardson, to fire Archibald Cox. Richardson refused and resigned in protest. Nixon then ordered the deputy Attorney-General, William Ruckelshaus, to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus also refused and he was sacked. Eventually, Robert Bork, the Solicitor-General, fired Cox.
Nixon was unable to resist the pressure and on 23rd October he agreed to comply with the subpoena and began releasing some of the tapes. The following month a gap of over 18 minutes was discovered on the tape of the conversation between Richard Nixon and H. R. Haldeman on June 20, 1972. Nixon's secretary, Rose Mary Woods, denied deliberately erasing the tape. It was now clear that Nixon had been involved in the cover-up and members of the Senate began to call for his impeachment.
Rodino, was chairman of the Judiciary Committee and presided over the impeachment proceedings against Nixon. The hearings opened in May 1974. The committee had to vote on five articles of impeachment and it was thought that members would split on party lines. However, on the three main charges - obstructing justice, abuse of power and withholding evidence, the majority of Republicans voted with the Democrats.
Two weeks later three senior Republican congressmen, Barry Goldwater, Hugh Scott, John Rhodes visited Richard Nixon to tell him that they were going to vote for his impeachment. Nixon, convinced that he will lose the vote, decided to resign as president of the United States. Rodino was furious when President Gerald Ford announced a "full free and absolute" pardon to Nixon for "all offenses against the United States" committed between January 20, 1969 and August 9, 1974.
Rodino retired from Congress in 1988 and was professor of Seton Hall University Law School, Newark, from 1989 to 2005.
Peter Rodino died of congestive heart failure at his West Orange home on 7th May, 2005.