The Scandalous 1979 Death Of Ford Administration Vice President Nelson Rockefeller

Nelson Rockefeller belonged to one of the wealthiest families in the U.S. His interest in politics started at an early age, and he earned an economics degree from Dartmouth College in 1930. After graduation, he went on to become a successful businessman, and by the age of 30, he became the president of the Rockefeller Center (via Biography). Rockefeller was always into politics, and he became the governor of New York from 1959 until 1973. He also served as the U.S. vice president under President Gerald Ford from 1974 to 1977.

Rockefeller's life wasn't without controversy, and scandals followed him even after his death. In January 1979, Rockefeller's death was the subject of news reports all over the country. Articles stated that the former vice president died of a heart attack while working in his office at the Rockefeller Center, as reported by ATI. However, it was discovered later on that the circumstances surrounding his death weren't as simple, and the true story of how he died was eventually released to the public.

The initial details of his death

On January 29, 1979, three days after the death of Nelson Rockefeller, The New York Times published an article that provided more accurate details about the businessman's death. At first, Hugh Morrow, the family's press secretary, announced that Rockefeller instantly died of a heart attack at 10:15 p.m. at the Rockefeller Center where only a security aide was present. Afterward, Morrow said that his initial statement was wrong, and said Rockefeller died in his townhouse with his chauffeur and personal security present.

Yet again, a new version of events emerged on January 28. Morrow said that Rockefeller died at 11:15 p.m. at his townhouse and the people present were his security aide, Andrew Hoffman, and a staff assistant, Megan Marshack, who called 911 at 11:16 p.m. Morrow said that he had been confused about all the information he got from different people and simply made a mistake when he announced Rockefeller's death. However, as noted by the New York Daily News, the information Morrow provided didn't seem to add up, and there were many questions that reporters wanted to be answered.

The official report of Nelson Rockefeller's death

According to ATI, the official report of Nelson Rockefeller's death stated that he collapsed in his townhouse on January 26, and emergency responders found a 20-something blonde woman, identified as Megan Marshack, trying to revive him. The report also noted that Rockefeller and the woman seemed "undeniably intimate," and the former vice president had no shoes on. It was also discovered that it wasn't Marshack who called 911, but her friend who lived in the same building, news reporter Ponchitta Pierce.

Paramedics stated that Rockefeller was still warm when they arrived at the townhouse, but he didn't have a pulse. Drugs were injected into his system to start his heart, and he was immediately transported to a hospital for further treatment, per the New York Daily News. He was declared dead at 12:20 a.m. on January 26, and his cause of death was a heart attack. The family didn't order for an autopsy to be performed, and Rockefeller was cremated soon after, as it was the tradition in his family.

Who was Megan Marshack?

Many wondered who Megan Marshack was. There were rumors that she had been having an affair with Nelson Rockefeller, who had been married to his second wife, Margaretta "Happy" Fitler (pictured left), since 1963. According to the New York Daily News, Rockefeller met Marshack — then 22 years old — in Washington in 1975 and hired her as his assistant the following year when he moved to New York. Rockefeller reportedly helped her purchase her luxurious dwelling, which was located near his own townhouse. Neighbors of the young woman said that Rockefeller often went to her place bearing flowers for Marshack. The rumor of an affair was confirmed by Marshack's friends, who described her as a "gold-digger."

The reports about the affair persisted, and it was widely speculated that Rockefeller died while being intimate with Marshack. Rockefeller's children released a statement that said they were satisfied with the doctor's findings about the manner of their father's death, and they accepted that nothing else could have been done to save him. "We feel that it is wrong for us to take part in a continued debate over the details," they said, per the New York Times. Rockefeller's children didn't address the rumors of their father's alleged infidelity, but 18-year-old Steven Rockefeller, the businessman's grandson, said, "I don't know what Megan's role was exactly, but if she was involved with Grandaddy, I hope she did the best she could and that she was instrumental in some of his success."