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Richard Nixon - 37th President of the United States


Portrait of President Nixon taken 12/24/1971   (National Archives)
Portrait of President Nixon
taken 12/24/1971 (National Archives)



Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 - April 22, 1994) was the 37th (1969-1974) President of the United States, (Republican). He is the only President to have resigned from office. His resignation came in response to the complex of scandals called the Watergate conspiracy.

He was raised as a evangelical Quaker by his mother, Hannah, who hoped he would become a Quaker missionary. His upbringing is said to have been marked by such conservative Quaker observances as refraining from drinking, dancing, and swearing. However, this is doubtful, as the evangelical sect of Quakerism known as Friends Churches, having been largely organized by itinerant Methodists, bore little resemblence to the traditional 'unprogrammed' Quaker religion, with its silent worship, avoidance of paid clergy, and strict adherence to pacifism. In any case, his father was less religious, focusing on the family business, a store that sold groceries and gasoline. There is much debate as to whether Nixon went through the expected Quaker soul-searching attendent on whether to become a conscientious objector in World War II. During the period of his political career, however, he was not a practicing Quaker.

He attended Whittier College (a Quaker school), graduating second in his class, and Duke University Law School, where he received a full scholarship. He served as a noncombatant officer in the US Navy in World War II; and was elected to Congress in 1946, in a class of freshman war veterans that included his future rival John F. Kennedy, of Massachusetts.

Nixon climbed the ladder swiftly, making his name as an anti-Communist and a rough, no-holds-barred campaigner. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives from California in 1948 where he became a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee and was instrumental in the trial of the ex-government official Alger Hiss for perjury as a part of the accusation that he was a Soviet spy.

Nixon was elected to the Senate in 1950, and in 1952 was elected Vice President on Dwight Eisenhower's ticket when he was only 39 years old.

One notable event of the campaign was Nixon's innovative use of television. Nixon was found to have been financed by a slush fund provided by business supporters. He went on TV and defended himself in an emotional speech in which he stated that his wife Pat did not wear mink, but "a good Republican cloth coat" and stated that although he had been given a cocker spaniel named "Checkers", he was not going to give it back because his daughters loved it. This broadcast resulted in a flood of support that required Eisenhower to keep Nixon on the ticket.

As Vice President, Nixon journeyed to South America and was praised for his courage in facing angry mobs protesting US foreign policy.

Nixon was notable among Vice Presidents in having actually stepped up to run the government three times when Eisenhower was ill: on the occasions of Eisenhower's heart attack on September 24, 1955; his ileitis in June 1956; and his stroke in November 1957.

In 1960, he ran for President on his own but lost to John F. Kennedy. A crucial factor in his loss was the first televised presidential debate. Nixon refused television makeup and was feeling sick, having injured his knee on the way to the studio. He expected to win voters with his foreign-policy expertise, but people only saw a sickly man sweating profusely and wearing a gray suit that blended into the scenery while his rival, Kennedy, looked great. Later research showed that those who had listened to the debate on radio thought Nixon had won, but that the television audience gave the win to Kennedy.

In 1962, he lost a race for Governor of California. In his concession speech, Nixon stated that it was his "last press conference" and that "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more". The defeated mood did not last. He moved to New York City and worked as a high-powered lawyer and in the election of 1968 completed a remarkable political comeback by defeating Hubert H. Humphrey to become the 37th U.S. President.

Nixon appealed to what he claimed was the "silent majority" of moderate Americans who disliked the "hippie" counterculture. Nixon also promised "peace with honor" by his "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War. He proposed the Nixon Doctrine to establish the strategy to turn over the fighting of the war to the Vietnamese. The war ended ignominiously during Nixon's term, but only after four more years of strategic bombing and defeat on the ground, and the withdrawal of US troops, leaving the battle to the South Vietnamese army.

Major initiatives during his presidency:

  • Re-establishment of diplomatic relations with China and the Soviet Union as part of Realpolitik, a program of realistic politics. Nixon made famous visits to both nations. Nixon's partnership with Henry Kissinger was an essential part of this success.
  • Establishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Establishment of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
  • "Vietnamization": the slow withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam.
  • Space Shuttle program started.

Nixon was eventually investigated for the instigation and cover-up of the burglary of the Democratic Party offices at the Watergate office complex. His secret recordings of White House conversations were subpoenaed, and revealed details of his complicity in the cover-up. Nixon, however, was named by the grand jury investigating Watergate as "an unindicted co-conspirator". He lost support from his own party as well as the country in the Saturday Night Massacre in which ordered Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor in the Watergate case fired, as well as firing several of his own subordinates who objected to this move. When the House of Representatives voted impeachment, Nixon had run out of options and resigned rather than be convicted. His successor, Gerald R. Ford, issued a pre-emptive pardon, ending the investigations.

In his last years, Nixon managed to rehabiliate himself somewhat and gained respect as an elder statesman in the area of foreign affairs and was consulted by both Democratic and Republican successors to the Presidency. Further tape releases, however, removed all doubt as to Nixon's involvement, both in the Watergate cover-up and the illegal campaign finance and intrusive government surveillance that were at the heart of the scandal.

Nixon died on April 22, 1994, at the age of 81 from complications related to a stroke and was buried beside his wife Pat Nixon in the grounds of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California.

The Nixon Library contains only Nixon's pre and post-Presidential papers as his Presidential papers have been retained as criminal evidence. Nixon's attempts to protect his papers and gain tax advantages from them had been one of the important themes of the Watergate affair. The library is privately funded; other presidential libraries receive support from the US National Archives.

 

 
Photographs of President Richard Nixon



Richard M. Nixon campaigning in  1968.  (National Archives)
Richard M. Nixon campaigning in 1968. (National Archives)





President Nixon speaks to assembled White House staff on the south lawn after return from Midway Island conference with President Thieu of South Vietnam.  Photo taken  06/10/1969. (National Archives)
President Nixon speaks to assembled White House staff on the south lawn after return from Midway Island conference with President Thieu of South Vietnam. Photo taken 06/10/1969.





Richard M. Nixon shaking hands with armed forces in Vietnam.  Photo taken  07/30/1969. (National Archives)
Richard M. Nixon shaking hands with armed forces in Vietnam. Photo taken 07/30/1969.





Richard M. Nixon during a press conference on Vietnam and Cambodia.  Photo taken  04/30/1970. (National Archives)
Richard M. Nixon during a press conference on Vietnam and Cambodia. Photo taken 04/30/1970.





President and Mrs. Nixon sitting in the living room of their San Clemente home., 01/13/1971  (National Archives)
President and Mrs. Nixon sitting in the living room of their San Clemente home., 01/13/1971 (National Archives)





President and Mrs. Nixon visit the Great Wall of China and the Ming tombs, 02/24/1972  (National Archives)
President and Mrs. Nixon visit the Great Wall of China and the Ming tombs, 02/24/1972 (National Archives)





President Nixon escorts Nguyen Van Thieu, President of the Republic of Vietnam, to his car outside the Administrative offices at San Clemente, following a meeting.  Photo taken  04/02/1973. (National Archives)
President Nixon escorts Nguyen Van Thieu, President of the Republic of Vietnam, to his car outside the Administrative offices at San Clemente, following a meeting. Photo taken 04/02/1973.





Dedication of the New Grand Ole Opry House, 03/16/1974 (National Archives)
Dedication of the New Grand Ole Opry House, 03/16/1974 (National Archives)





Richard M. Nixon press conference releasing the transcripts of the White House tapes., 04/29/1974  (National Archives)
Richard M. Nixon press conference releasing the transcripts of the White House tapes., 04/29/1974 (National Archives)





Crowd staning outside the White House gate the day of Richard M. Nixon's resignation., 08/09/1974  (National Archives)
Crowd staning outside the White House gate the day of Richard M. Nixon's resignation., 08/09/1974 (National Archives)





Nixon's farewell to his cabinet and members of the White House staff, 08/09/1974  (National Archives)
Nixon's farewell to his cabinet and members of the White House staff, 08/09/1974 (National Archives)

 
Quick Facts about President Richard Nixon

Rank: 37th (1969-1974)
Followed: Lyndon Johnson
Succeeded by: Gerald Ford 
Date of Birth January 9, 1913
Place of Birth: Yorba Linda, California
Date of Death: April 22, 1994
Place of Death: New York City, New York
First Lady: Thelma "Patricia" Catherine Ryan
Profession: lawyer
Political Party: Republican
Vice President: Spiro Agnew (1969-1973)
                Gerald Ford (1973-1974)

 
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