Richard Nixon was at Charles "Bebe" Rebozo's side for the groundbreaking of Rebozo's Key Biscayne Bank - a landmark event for a gas station owner and son of a Cuban cigarmaker.
Eight years later it was Rebozo who stood by Nixon's side during the darkest days of the Watergate scandal, even on the night Nixon decided to resign the presidency.Rebozo, 85, died Friday night at Baptist Hospital, said his sister, Mary Bouterse.
Hospital officials wouldn't disclose the cause of death. The Miami Herald reported that doctors said he died of a brain aneurysm.
Rebozo had grown up in modest circumstances, and regarded himself modestly even when keeping presidential company.
He once said: "I'd wake up in the White House and suddenly realize, `What in the world are you doing here - a country bumpkin sleeping in the White House?' "
Rebozo was introduced to Nixon in 1950 by Rep. George Smathers of Florida. Nixon needed someplace to go to get rid of a nagging cold, and Smathers recommended Key Biscayne. Smathers also called his old friend Rebozo to make sure Nixon would have a good time.
Rebozo took Nixon fishing and, even though he didn't think Nixon had a good time, it was the start of a longstanding friendship. They became golfing buddies and neighbors at Nixon's winter White House in Key Biscayne.
"Bebe was a very relaxed guy," Smathers said of Rebozo. "Women loved him. He had all kinds of girlfriends. He was very sociable and very popular with everybody. He didn't have any enemies."
When Rebozo chartered his Key Biscayne Bank in March 1964, Nixon - then a Wall Street lawyer - wielded a shovel at the groundbreaking. Nixon was also the first depositor.
It was during a visit with Rebozo in June 1972 that Nixon first learned that five men hired by the White House had been arrested at Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate office building.
"We were swimming at Key Biscayne in front of my house," Rebozo told the Herald in a 1990 interview. "They came out and told him. He said, `What in God's name were they doing there?' "
Then, Rebozo said, "We laughed and forgot about it."
Rebozo was at the president's side the night he decided to quit the presidency. Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974.
"The truth of the matter is, I don't think I could have taken it had I not seen what he was taking, and how he was surviving," Rebozo said of Nixon and Watergate.
The two men remained close after Nixon left office, with the former president continuing his visits to Florida. Nixon died in 1994.