Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 - April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. He was also the 36th Vice President, serving under Dwight D. Eisenhower. Nixon redefined the office of Vice President, making it for the first time a high visibility platform and base for a presidential candidacy. He is the only person to have been elected twice to the Vice Presidency and twice to the Presidency, and the only president to have resigned that office. His resignation came after advisement of imminent impeachment related to the Watergate break-in and subsequent Watergate scandal.
Nixon is noted for his diplomatic foreign policy, especially with the Soviet Union and China, and his efforts to end the Vietnam War. He is also noted for his middle-of-the-road domestic policy that combined conservative rhetoric and, in many cases, liberal action, as in his environmental policy.
As president, Nixon imposed wage and price controls, indexed Social Security for inflation, and created Supplemental Security Income. The number of pages added to the Federal Register each year doubled under Nixon. He advocated gun control, reduced speed limits, and eradicated the last remnants of the gold standard. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration and implemented the Philadelphia Plan, the first significant federal affirmative action program.
In his later years, Nixon worked to rehabilitate his public image, and he enjoyed considerably more success than could have been anticipated at the time of his resignation. He gained great respect as an elder statesman in the area of foreign affairs, being consulted by both Democratic and Republican successors to the Presidency, and wrote several highly-regarded books.
Richard Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California, to Francis A. Nixon and Hannah Milhous Nixon in a house his father built from a kit purchased from Sears, Roebuck. He was raised by his mother as an evangelical Quaker. His upbringing is said to have been marked by conservative evangelical Quaker observances, like refraining from drinking, dancing, and swearing. His father was a former member of the Methodist Protestant Church who had sincerely converted to Quakerism but never fully absorbed its spirit, retaining instead a volatile temper. Richard Nixon's great-grandfather, George Nixon III, had been killed at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War while serving in the 73rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry.The young Lt Commander Richard Nixon of the U.S. Navy 1945.
Nixon attended Fullerton High School and Whittier High School. He graduated first in his class; showing a penchant for Shakespeare and Latin. He won a full tuition scholarship from Harvard University; but since it did not cover living expenses, Nixon's family was unable to afford to send him away to college. Nixon attended Whittier College, a local Quaker school where he co-founded the Orthogonian Society, a fraternity that competed with the already established Franklin Society. Nixon was elected student body president. A lifelong football fan, Nixon practiced with the team assiduously but spent most of his time on the bench. In 1934, he graduated second in his class from Whittier and went on to Duke University School of Law, where he received a full scholarship.
Nixon returned to California, passed the bar exam, and began working in the small-town law office of a family friend in nearby La Mirada. The work was mostly routine, and Nixon generally found it to be dull, although he was entirely competent. He later wrote that family law cases caused him particular discomfort, since his reticent Quaker upbringing was severely at odds with the idea of discussing intimate marital details with strangers.
It was during this period that he met his wife, Patricia Ryan, a high school teacher; they were married on June 21, 1940. They had two daughters, Tricia and Julie.
During World War II, Nixon served as an officer in the Navy. He received his training at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, and Ottumwa, Iowa, before serving in the supply corps in the South Pacific. There he was known as "Nick" and for his prowess in poker, banking a large sum that helped finance his first campaign for Congress.
Nixon was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1946, defeating Democratic incumbent Jerry Voorhis for California's 12th Congressional district. During his two terms, he became well known as a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee, particularly for his leading role in the Alger Hiss case.
Vice PresidencyNixon and Eisenhower at a 1952 Campaign stop
In 1952, Nixon was elected Vice President on Dwight D. Eisenhower's ticket, although he was only 39 years old.
One notable event of the campaign was Nixon's innovative use of television. Nixon was accused by nameless sources of misappropriating money out of a business fund for personal use. He went on TV and defended himself in an emotional speech, where he provided an independent third-party review of the fund's accounting along with a personal summary of his finances, which he cited as exonerating him from wrongdoing, and he charged that the Democratic Presidential candidate, Adlai Stevenson, also had a "slush fund." This speech would, however, become better known for its rhetoric, such as when he stated that his wife Pat did not wear mink, but rather "a respectable Republican cloth coat," and that although he had been given a cocker spaniel named "Checkers" in addition to his other campaign contributions, he was not going to give it back, because his daughters loved it. As a result, this speech became known as the "Checkers speech" and it resulted in a flood of support, prompting Eisenhower to keep Nixon on the ticket.
Nixon reinvented the office of Vice President. Although he had no formal power, he had the attention of the media and the Republican party. He demonstrated for the first time that the office could be a springboard to the White House; most Vice Presidents since have followed his lead and sought the presidency. Nixon was the first Vice President to actually step in to temporarily run the government. He did that 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 on November 25, 1957. His quick thinking was on display on July 24, 1959, at the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow where he and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had an impromptu "kitchen debate" about the merits of capitalism versus communism.
During Nixon's vice-presidency, he became involved in several arguments with President Eisenhower, which later resulted in Eisenhower's hesitation to support Nixon during the 1960 presidential campaign.
1960 election and post-Vice PresidencyVice President Nixon, right, and Senator John Kennedy during their TV debate prior to the 1960 presidential election.
In 1960, Nixon ran for President on his own, but lost to Senator John F. Kennedy. The race was very close all year long, and any number of small episodes could have tilted the results one way or the other, including the televised debates. Nixon campaigned on his experience, but Kennedy said it was time for new blood and suggested the Eisenhower-Nixon administration had been soft on defense. It also did not help that when asked of major policy decisions that Nixon had helped make, Eisenhower responded: "Give me a week and I might think of one." This hurt his standing early in the campaign, showing that he did not necessarily have Eisenhower's backing to be president.
In 1962, Nixon lost a race for Governor of California. In his concession speech, Nixon accused the media of favoring his opponent Pat Brown, and stated that it was his "last press conference" and that, "You don't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more."
1968 electionNixon takes the oath of office on January 20, 1969
Nixon moved to New York City, where he became a senior partner in a leading law firm: Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie, and Alexander. During the 1966 Congressional elections, he traveled the country in support of Republican candidates, rebuilding his base in the party. In the Presidential election of 1968, he completed a remarkable political comeback by winning the Republican nomination. Nixon appealed to what he called the "silent majority" of socially conservative Americans who disliked the "hippie" counterculture and anti-war demonstrators. Regarding the Vietnam War, Nixon promised "peace with honor," and without claiming to be able to win it, Nixon claimed that "new leadership will end the war and win the peace in the Pacific." He did not explain in detail his plans to end the war, leading to allegations from Democratic nominee Hubert H. Humphrey and the media that he must have some "secret plan." Nixon never used the phrase himself, and stated in his memoirs that he had no such plan. He defeated Humphrey and independent candidate George Wallace to become the 37th President.
Once in office, he proposed the Nixon Doctrine to establish a strategy of turning the fighting of the war over to the South Vietnamese people. In July 1969, he visited South Vietnam, and met with President Nguyen Van Thieu and with United States military commanders, promoting the "Vietnamization" of the war. American involvement in the war declined steadily until all American combat troops left in 1973. After the withdrawal of American soldiers, fighting was left to the South Vietnamese army. Although well-supplied with modern arms and equipment, their fighting capability was marginal due to corruption and low morale. A lack of adequate funding for maintenance and supplies was due primarily to increasing cutbacks by the United States Congress in response to constituents voicing opposition to an already unpopular war.
Nixon secretly ordered bombing campaigns in Cambodia in March 1969 (code-named Menu), to destroy what were believed to be the headquarters and large numbers of soldiers of the National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam. Cambodia also served as a Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Regular Army supply route and staging area.President Nixon greets released POW, (and future Republican Senator from Arizona) Navy officer John McCain after years of imprisonment in the "Hanoi Hilton" in North Vietnam, 1973.
In ordering the bombings, Nixon realized he would be extending an unpopular war as well as breaching Cambodia's "official," but insincere neutrality. During deliberations over Nixon's impeachment, his unorthodox use of executive powers over the ordering of these bombings was considered as an article of impeachment, but the charge was dropped as it was not a violation of Constitutional powers.
On July 20, 1969, Nixon addressed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during their historic moonwalk, live via radio. Nixon also made the world's longest distance phone call to Neil Armstrong while Armstrong was on the moon. On January 5, 1972, Nixon approved the development of the NASA Space Shuttle program, a decision that profoundly influenced U.S. efforts to explore and develop space for decades afterward.
Responding to mounting public concern, the Environmental Protection Agency was established through initiatives undertaken by the Nixon Administration on December 2, 1970, to preserve the national and global environment and ecology.
Relations between the Western and Eastern power blocs changed dramatically in the early 1970s. In 1960, the People's Republic of China ended the alliance with the Soviet Union, in the Sino-Soviet Split. As tension between the two communist nations reached its peak in 1969-1970, Nixon decided to use their conflict to shift the balance of power towards the West in the Cold War. In what would be known as playing the "China Card," Nixon sought to improve relations with communist China in order to balance America's relations with the Soviet Union.
In 1971, a move was made to improve relations when China invited an American table tennis team to play there; hence the term "Ping Pong Diplomacy." America's response was to support China's entry into the UN and the UN Security Council (at Taiwan's expense), something it had always vetoed. In October 1971, communist China was formally admitted into the United Nations. In February 1972, Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit China, on the foundation laid by his national security adviser Henry Kissinger. Fearing a Sino-American alliance, the Soviet Union began to yield to Nixon. The first Strategic Arms Limitation Talks were concluded the same year.President Nixon greets Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong (left) in a visit to Beijing in 1972.
Nixon supported the wave of military coups in South America. Through Kissinger, he gave at least implicit help to Augusto Pinochet's coup in 1973, and then helped set up Operation Condor.
In the 1972 presidential election, Nixon was re-elected in one of the largest landslide election victories in U.S. political history, defeating Senator George McGovern and garnering over 60 percent of the popular vote. He carried 49 of the 50 states, losing only the traditional Democratic state, Massachusetts.
On January 2, 1974, Nixon signed a bill that lowered the nationwide highway and interstate maximum speed limit to 55 miles per hour (90 kilometers per hour) in to order to conserve gasoline during the 1973 energy crisis. This law also proved effective in lowering vehicle accident fatalities and remained in effect until George H. W. Bush's administration in the late 1980s.
On April 3, 1974, Nixon announced he would pay $432,787 in back taxes plus interest after a Congressional committee reported that he had inadvertently underpaid his 1969 and 1972 taxes.
In light of the near certainty of both impeachment proceedings due to the Watergate scandal by the House of Representatives and his income tax underpayment conviction by the Senate, on August 9, 1974, Nixon became the only United States president to resign his office.
Major initiativesZaire president Mobutu Sese Seko and Nixon at the White House, 1973
- Began the normalizing of diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China
- Détente in the Cold War; détente ended in 1979, replaced by a new phase of the Cold War.
- Establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Establishment of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- Establishment of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
- Establishment of the Supplemental Security Income program.
- Establishment of the Office of Minority Business Enterprise.
- Post Office Department abolished as a cabinet department and reorganized as a government-owned corporation, the U.S. Postal Service.
- SALT I, or Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, led to the signing of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
- "Vietnamization:" the training and arming of South Vietnamese forces to allow the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam.
- Suspension of the convertibility of the U.S. dollar into gold, a central point of the Bretton Woods system, allowing its value to float in world markets.
- Space shuttle program started under NASA.
- Endorsed an enlightened self-determination policy for Native Americans that changed the direction of policy as continued from the New Deal through the Great Society.
Administration and Cabinet
|Vice President||Spiro T. Agnew||1969-1973|
|State||William P. Rogers||1969-1973|
|Henry A. Kissinger||1973-1974|
|Treasury||David M. Kennedy||1969-1971|
|John B. Connally||1971-1972|
|George P. Shultz||1972-1974|
|William E. Simon||1974|
|Defense||Melvin R. Laird||1969-1973|
|Elliot L. Richardson||1973-1973|
|James R. Schlesinger||1973-1974|
|Attorney General||John N. Mitchell||1969-1972|
|Richard G. Kleindienst||1972-1973|
|Elliot L. Richardson||1973-1974|
|William B. Saxbe||1974|
|Postmaster General||Winton M. Blount||1969-1974|
|Secretary of the Interior||Walter J. Hickel||1969-1971|
|Rogers C. B. Morton||1971-1974|
|Secretary of Agriculture||Clifford M. Hardin||1969-1971|
|Earl L. Butz||1971-1974|
|Secretary of Commerce||Maurice H. Stans||1969-1972|
|Peter George Peterson||1972-1973|
|Frederick B. Dent||1973-1974|
|Secretary of Labor||George P. Shultz||1969-1970|
|James D. Hodgson||1970-1973|
|Peter J. Brennan||1973-1974|
|Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare||Robert H. Finch||1969-1970|
|Elliot L. Richardson||1970-1973|
|Caspar W. Weinberger||1973-1974|
|Secretary of Housing and Urban Development||George Romney||1969-1973|
|James T. Lynn||1973-1974|
|Secretary of Transportation||John A. Volpe||1969-1973|
|Claude S. Brinegar||1973-1974|
Supreme Court appointments
Nixon appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:
- Warren E. Burger (Chief Justice)-1969
- Harry A. Blackmun-1970
- Lewis F. Powell, Jr.-1972
- William Rehnquist-1972
Nixon also made the following unsuccessful Supreme Court nominations:
- Harrold Carswell-rejected by the United States Senate
- Clement Haynesworth-rejected by the United States Senate
- Hershel Friday-passed over in favor of Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr., after the American Bar Association found Friday "unqualified."
- Mildred Lillie-passed over in favor of William Rehnquist after the American Bar Association found Lillie "unqualified."
WatergateNixon departing the White House on August 9, 1974
In October 1972, The Washington Post reported that the FBI had determined Nixon aides had spied on and sabotaged numerous Democratic presidential candidates as a part of operations that led to the infamous Watergate scandal. During the campaign, five burglars were arrested on June 17, 1972, in the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C.. They were subsequently linked to the White House. This became one of a series of major scandals involving the Committee to Re-Elect the President, including the White House enemies list and assorted "dirty tricks." The ensuing Watergate scandal exposed rampant corruption, illegality, and deceit within the Nixon administration
The American left rallied against Nixon and successfully coalesced with various student movements opposed to the Vietnam War. Nixon himself downplayed the scandal as mere politics, but when his aides resigned in disgrace, Nixon's role in ordering an illegal cover-up came to light in the press, courts, and congressional investigations. It was alleged that Nixon had evaded taxes, accepted illegal campaign contributions, and harassed opponents in executive agencies. In an unrelated matter, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned in October 1973 for accepting bribes. In the midst of this mounting crisis, several individuals and groups emerged to support Nixon, not because they considered him innocent but to uphold the stature of the Presidency, which was vital for global stability. Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, was notable among these supporters.
His secret recordings of White House conversations were subpoenaed, and revealed details of his complicity in the cover-up. Nixon was named by the grand jury investigating Watergate as "an unindicted co-conspirator" in the Watergate Scandal. He lost support from some in his own party as well as much popular support after what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre of October 20, 1973, in which he ordered Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor in the Watergate case, to be fired, as well as firing several of his own subordinates who objected to this move. The House Judiciary Committee opened formal and public impeachment hearings against Nixon on May 9, 1974. Despite his efforts, one of the secret recordings, known as the "smoking gun" tape, was released on August 5, 1974, and revealed that Nixon authorized hush money to Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt.
In light of his loss of political support and the near certainty of both impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate, he resigned on August 9, 1974, after addressing the nation on television the previous evening. He never admitted wrongdoing, though he later conceded errors of judgment.
On September 8, 1974, a blanket pardon from President Gerald R. Ford, who served as Nixon's second vice president, effectively ended any possibility of indictment. The pardon was highly controversial and Nixon's critics claimed that the blanket pardon was quid pro quo for his resignation. No evidence of this "corrupt bargain" has ever been proven, and many modern historians dismiss any claims of overt collusion between the two men concerning the pardon. The pardon hurt Ford politically, and it was one of the major reasons cited for Ford's defeat in the election of 1976.
Later years and deathPresidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton watched over Nixon's funeral in 1994. He was the first president to die since Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1970s, while Nixon was still president.
In his later years, Nixon worked to rehabilitate his public image, and he enjoyed considerably more success than could have been anticipated at the time of his resignation.
In 1977, he met with British talk-show host and producer David Frost, who paid him $600,000 for a series of sit-down interviews, which were filmed and aired on television that year. They began on the topic of foreign policy, recounting the leaders he had known, but the most remembered section of the interviews was on Watergate. Nixon admitted that he had "let down the country" and that "I brought myself down. I gave them a sword and they stuck it in. And they twisted it with relish. And, I guess, if I'd been in their position, I'd have done the same thing" (Drew, 2007, 138). The interviews garnered 45-50 million viewers-becoming the most-watched program of their kind in television history.
Nixon wrote many books on world affairs after his departure from politics, as well as his memoirs. He gained great respect as an elder statesman in the area of foreign affairs, being consulted by both Democratic and Republican successors to the Presidency.
On April 18, 1994, Nixon, 81, suffered a major stroke at his home in Park Ridge, New Jersey, and died four days later, on April 22. He was buried beside his wife, Pat Nixon (who had died ten months earlier, on June 22, 1993, of lung cancer) on the grounds of the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California.
President Bill Clinton, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, and California Republican Governor Pete Wilson spoke at the funeral, the first for an American president since that of Lyndon Johnson on January 25, 1973, a ceremony Nixon presided over when president; also in attendance were former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. Nixon was survived by his two daughters, along with his four grandchildren.
- "You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore. Because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference." 1962, after losing the race for Governor of California.
- "This is the greatest week in the history of the world since the Creation, because as a result of what happened in this week, the world is bigger, infinitely." (concerning the Apollo Moon landing)
- "I made my mistakes, but in all my years of public life, I have never profited from public service. I've earned every cent. And in all of my years in public life I have never obstructed justice. And I think, too, that I can say that in my years of public life that I welcome this kind of examination because people have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got" (in response to the Watergate scandal).
- "People react to fear, not love-they don't teach that in Sunday School, but it's true" (concerning fear and paranoia in the Cold War).
- "No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now" (1985 looking back at the Vietnam War).
- On his secret war in Cambodia even after it became public knowledge. "Publicly, we say one thing… . Actually, we do another."
- "The greatness comes not when things go always good for you, but the greatness comes and you are really tested, when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes, because only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain… Always remember, others may hate you. Those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself." Farewell to White House staff August 8, 1974.
- "Any nation that decides the only way to achieve peace is through peaceful means is a nation that will soon be a piece of another nation." (from his book, No More Vietnams)
- "The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker." (From his 1969 inaugural; later used as Nixon's epitaph)
Nixon's image and media portrayals
Nixon's career was frequently dogged by his personality, and the public perception of it. Editorial cartoonists such as Herblock and comedians had fun exaggerating Nixon's appearance and mannerisms, to the point where the line between the human and the caricature version of him became increasingly blurred. He was often portrayed as a sullen loner, with unshaven jowls, slumped shoulders, and a furrowed, sweaty brow. He was also characterized as the very epitome of a "square" and the personification of unpleasant adult authority. He also frequently brandished the two-finger V sign (alternately viewed as the "Victory sign" or "peace sign") using both hands, an act which became one of his best-known trademarks. Once the transcripts of the White House tapes were released, people were shocked at the amount of swearing and vicious comments about opponents that Nixon issued. This did not help the public perception, and fed the comedians even more. Nixon's sense of being persecuted by his "enemies," his grandiose belief in his own moral and political excellence, and his commitment to utilize ruthless power at all costs led some experts to describe him as having a narcissistic and paranoid personality.Nixon meets Elvis Presley in December 1970
There have been many books and movies made about his life.
- The book and movie All the President's Men tells of Woodward and Bernstein's role in uncovering the Watergate affair.
- Best-selling historian-author Stephen Ambrose wrote a three-volume biography (Nixon: The Education of a Politician 1913-1962, Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972, Nixon: Ruin and Recovery 1973-1990) considered the definitive work among many Nixon biographies. The detailed accounts were mostly favorably regarded by both liberal and conservative reviewers.
- Conservative author Victor Lasky published a book in 1977 called, It Didn't Start With Watergate. The book points out that past presidents may have used wiretaps and engaged in other activities that Nixon was accused of, but were never pursued by the press or the subject of impeachment hearings.
- Chuck Colson gives an insider account of the Watergate affair in Born Again.
- H.R. Haldeman also provides an insider's perspective in the books The Ends of Power and The Haldeman Diaries: Inside the Nixon White House
- The movie Nixon directed by Oliver Stone.
- Nixon in China is an opera dealing with Nixon's visit there.
- From 1976 to 1979, Nixon was portrayed on NBC's Saturday Night Live by Dan Aykroyd.
- Frost/Nixon is a 2008 historical drama film based on the 2006 play of the same name by Peter Morgan which tells the story behind the Frost/Nixon interviews of 1977. Both play and film featured Michael Sheen as British television broadcaster David Frost and Frank Langella as Nixon.
Books by Nixon
- Nixon, Richard. (1960). The Challenges We Face: Edited and Compiled from the Speeches and Papers of Richard M. Nixon. ISBN 0195457626
- -(1962). Six Crises. Doubleday. ASIN B000K7ZDGO
- -(1978). RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (Reprint). Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671707418
- -(1980). Real War. Sidgwich Jackson. ISBN 0283986506
- -(1982). Leaders. Random House. ISBN 0446512494
- -(1987). No More Vietnams. Arbor House Publishing. ISBN 0877956685
- -(1988). 1999: Victory Without War. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671627120
- -(1990). In the Arena: A Memoir of Victory, Defeat, and Renewal. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671723189
- -(1992). Seize The Moment: America's Challenge In A One-Superpower World. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671743430
- -(1994). Beyond Peace. Random House. ISBN 0679433236
- Ambrose, Stephen E. Nixon: The Education of a Politician 1913-1962. Simon & Schuster, 1987. ISBN 978-0671528362
- Ambrose, Stephen E. Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972. Simon & Schuster, 1989. ISBN 978-0671528379
- Ambrose, Stephen E. Nixon: Ruin and Recovery 1973-1990. Touchstone Books, 1992. ISBN 978-0671792084
- Black, Conrad. Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full. New York: PublicAffairs Books, 2007. ISBN 978-1586485191
- Drew, Elizabeth. Richard M. Nixon. The American Presidents Series. New York: Times Books,