Haig replaced H.R. Haldeman in 1973 as White House chief of staff under President Nixon and helped prepare his impeachment defense during the Watergate scandal. He also aided with the transfer of power to Gerald Ford following Nixon’s resignation.
Ford later appointed Haig as supreme commander of NATO.
But he will be best remembered for the role he played as President Reagan’s first secretary of state. Shortly after Reagan was wounded in a 1981 assassination attempt, Haig told reporters:
As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the vice president and in close touch with him. If something came up, I would check with him, of course.
It was a low moment for Haig, who was reminded that, constitutionally at least, there are several people ahead of the secretary of state when it comes to presidential succession. Haig insisted that he was talking about who was running the government, with Reagan shot and Vice President Bush out of town. Nonetheless, he was widely ridiculed for the remark and it always stayed with him.
Haig’s stint in the Reagan cabinet did not go smoothly, as he constantly battled with the national security adviser over control of foreign policy. He resigned in 1982.