L. Patrick Gray (search), whose yearlong stint as acting FBI director was marked by the Watergate (search) break-in and the ensuing scandal that led to President Nixon's resignation, has died. He was 88.

Gray died at his home in Atlantic Beach from complications from pancreatic cancer, said his son, Ed Gray, of Lyme, N.H.

Just last month, Gray ended 32 years of silence about his role in the Watergate scandal, saying he had reacted with "total shock, total disbelief" to the revelation that his former deputy, W. Mark Felt (search), was the secret Watergate source known as Deep Throat.

He fooled me," said Gray. "It was like I was hit with a tremendous sledgehammer."

Nixon appointed Gray, a former Justice Department official and submarine commander, acting FBI director in May 1972 — just weeks before the Watergate break-in — after the death of J. Edgar Hoover. Gray was forced to step down in April 1973.

Critics alleged he tried to thwart the Watergate investigation — a charge he denied — even as Felt was secretly feeding information to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward (search).

When Felt was unmasked as Woodward's source more than 30 years later, Gray said he believed the trusted deputy had been unhappy at being passed over for the top job and had talked to the Post in order to sabotage him.

"I think there was a sense of revenge in his heart, and a sense of dumping my candidacy, if you will," he told ABC.

Gray was never indicted for any Watergate-related misdeeds, but descriptions of him as a Nixon loyalist who helped thwart the investigation and as someone the White House thought could be pushed around dogged him in the years following the scandal. He vigorously disputed the depiction.

Born in St. Louis in 1916, Gray left Rice University in 1936 to enter the U.S. Naval Academy. He graduated from the academy in 1940 and was commissioned as a line officer.

Gray served aboard submarines in World War II and the Korean War during a 20-year career in the Navy. He earned a law degree in 1949 from George Washington University.

He retired from the Navy in 1960 with the rank of captain. Before entering private practice in Connecticut, he worked for then-Vice President Nixon in his failed bid for president in 1960.

Gray returned to government service after Nixon was elected president in 1968, serving as executive assistant to the secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and on the president's Cabinet committee on desegregation. In 1970 he was appointed assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil division.

After he left the FBI, Gray returned to private law practice in New London and Groton, Conn.

He is survived by his wife, Beatrice Kirk Gray, and four sons.