SANTA ROSA, Calif. – Mark Felt's (search) relatives let out a whoop of joy Tuesday afternoon when they heard the bombshell announcement: The Washington Post had confirmed that Felt, the family's 91-year-old patriarch, was indeed the paper's Watergate-era informant known as Deep Throat.
For Felt's daughter, Joan, and her two sons, the Post's announcement was validation amid an extraordinary media frenzy.
Vanity Fair magazine released an article Tuesday identifying Felt, the former No. 2 man at the FBI, as the shadowy figure who helped Post reporters Bob Woodward (search) and Carl Bernstein (search) piece together the Watergate puzzle.
The revelation solved a 30-year-old mystery and brought dozens of reporters and camera crews to the Felt family's tidy suburban home north of San Francisco, trampling their flower beds and clogging neighborhood streets.
After a few hours, grandson Nick Jones stepped outside to pay tribute to the family patriarch.
"The family believes that my grandfather, Mark Felt Sr., is a great American hero who went well above and beyond the call of duty at much risk to himself to save his country from a horrible injustice," Jones said.
Later, Joan Felt found herself surrounded by reporters as she pulled up in front of her home after a grocery errand.
"I'm very proud of my father. My father is a patriot," she said as reporters beseeched her to bring the older Felt out for a quick hello.
Their wish was granted about 30 minutes later, when Felt — frail and shuffling behind a walker — made his way to the front door.
As cameras whirred and flashbulbs clicked, Felt smiled and laughed, giving the crowd an energetic thumbs-up.
Watching the scene from their own homes nearby, Felt's neighbors — many of whom said they had been Nixon supporters — praised his decision to come forward.
"I don't think he was a hero. I don't think he was a villain. I think he did his duty the way he saw fit to do it," neighbor Ronald Fiori said. "But I'm glad he came out before he died. The American people should know about him."
Jim Baker, who moved to the neighborhood in 1987, agreed.
"He's a person who showed courage, and I hope he will be an example for others to stand up for the Democratic process and open government that we have," Baker said.
Even one of Felt's youngest neighbors was caught up in the excitement.
"Wasn't he the guy who ratted out Nixon?" asked Felt's 12-year old next door neighbor, Josh Hickey.