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{{Officeholder/vice president
|country=the United States
|terms=January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961
|president=[[Dwight Eisenhower]]
|preceded=[[Alben W. Barkley]]
|succeeded=[[Lyndon Johnson]]
|terms=December 4, 1950 – January 1, 1953
|preceded=[[Sheridan Downey]]
|succeeded=[[Thomas Kuchel]]
|terms=January 3, 1947 – December 1, 1950
|preceded=Jerry Voorhis
|succeeded=Patrick J. Hillings

}} Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States of America, serving from 1969 to 1974. He was the only U.S. President to resign the office. He also served as the 36th Vice President of the United States of America under President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1961.

In 1946, he was elected as a U.S. Representative. As a Congressman from California, and as a member of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, he investigated Communists and instigated the successful prosecution of Alger Hiss for spying for the Soviet Union during World War II.

After two terms in the House, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in November of 1950. After losing his first presidential race to John F. Kennedy by a narrow margin in 1960, he unsuccessfully ran for Governor of California in 1962, losing to incumbent Edmund G Brown.

In 1968 he was elected president, and was reelected in 1972 by a landslide, but resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974 due to a threat of impeachment by Congress for the Watergate Affair. The main impeachment charge was that Nixon obstructed justice by telling employees to mislead FBI investigators about the Watergate burglary.

Early Life

Richard Milhous Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California, on January 9, 1913. Soon after, his family moved to Whittier, California. Nixon's childhood years were not unusual for someone growing up in two small towns near Los Angeles. His parents, Frank and Hannah Nixon, were devout Quakers. Nixon had four siblings and saw two of his brothers die from tuberculosis. Nixon grew up relatively poor, as his father earned a modest income from his gas station and grocery store. Due to these hard times, he established a quality of determination and strong work ethic. A good student and a hard worker, Nixon excelled scholastically.

Nixon attended Fullerton High School and Whittier High School. He graduated second in his class from Whittier with honor in the study of Shakespeare and Latin. He was awarded scholarships to Harvard and Yale University, but declined due to his family's financial condition. He instead enrolled at Whittier College, a local Quaker school, where he co-founded the “Orthogonian Society”, a new organzation to the campus geared towards working-class students. At Whittier, Nixon, a formidable debater, was elected freshman class president, and served as student body vice president in his junior year and president in his senior year. While at Whittier, he taught Sunday school at East Whittier Friends Church and remained a member all his life.

A lifelong football fan, Nixon practiced with the team, but played little. 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, was elected president of the Duke Bar Association, and graduated third in his class. In 1942 Nixon became a lawyer for the Office of Price Administration, the wartime liberal New Deal program that regulated all prices and rationed basic commodities.

During World War II, Nixon served in the Navy as a reserve officer, serving in the supply corps on several islands in the South Pacific, commanding cargo handling units in the SCAT. There he was known as “Nick” and for his exceptional poker-playing skills, banking a large sum of money that helped finance his first campaign for Congress. He rose to the rank of lieutenant commander and resigned after the war in March, 1946.

Congressional Career

:See related article : Legacy of Alger Hiss After service in the Navy he entered an entirely unstructured California political environment– parties hardly existed there in the 1940s, and many voters were recent arrivals. As a result Nixon never built a secure base in California (or anywhere else). In 1946 he defeated five-term Democrat Representative Jerry Voorhis, a leading liberal. Two years later, Nixon ran for reelection in both the Republican and Democrat primaries and won endorsement of both parties in the general election. <ref>Only California allowed this sort of “cross filing,” and they later dropped it and went to normal intra-party primaries. Richard Matthew Pious, The Presidents, pg. 515</ref> Nixon took typical positions for a California Republican: he was hostile to Communism, internationalist in outlook, and middle-of-the road in economic and social issues.

Nixon's first major breakthrough came in Congress, where his dogged investigation broke the impasse of the Alger Hiss spy case in 1948. The idea that Hiss–a former senior adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt– was a Soviet spy alarmed the nation, and won the lifelong hatred of the left, whose veneer of patriotism was dissolved.

In 1950 Nixon was elected to the United States Senate by defeating a leading Hollywood liberal, Helen Gahagan Douglas using tough campaign tactics that emphasized her votes with the far left.

Vice Presidency

Because of his membership of the California delegation at the 1952 Republican National Convention, his strong anti-communist credentials, and his appeal to the western part of the United States, Nixon was named as General Dwight Eisenhower's vice presidential running mate.

In the midst of the campaign questions arose about a group of seventy-six businessman from southern California who had contributed to a secret slush fund for Richard Nixon, being paid $900 a month (totaling $18,168 up to that point). There was talk of Nixon dropping from the ticket. Nixon claimed that money was used for office expenses only. On September 23, 1952 he gave the now infamous “Checkers Speech” in which he said that he and his wife, Pat Nixon do not live lavishly, saying that his wife had not even owned a fur coat but only “a respectable Republican cloth coat”. He went on to bring up a gift someone gave his children, a “little cocker spaniel dog” named Checkers, and said defiantly, “regardless of what they about it, we're going to keep it.” The speech was meet with overwhelming public approval. In November, Eisenhower and Nixon swept their way in office, winning 55 percent of the vote, to 44 percent for Democrat opponent Adlai Stevenson. As Vice President Richard Nixon occasionally presided over the Senate and chaired the President's Commission on Government Contracts, which dealt with radical discrimination by government contractors, and the Cabinet Committee on Price Stability for Economic growth (although Nixon had little influence over it). Nixon also chaired the National Security Council. However, in a press conference President Eisenhower was asked to give an example of Richard Nixon's contributions as Vice President, to which Eisenhower replied, “If you give me a week, I might think of one.”

Nixon did have an influential role in White House political operations. He campaigned for Republican members of Congress in 1954 and 1958. Nixon positioned himself as Presidential and his famous 1959 “Kitchen debate” in Moscow with Soviet Union President Nikita Khrushchev boosted his public appeal. By the end of the Eisenhower administration Nixon had become the top contender to be the Republican nomination for the 1960 Presidential election.

1960 Presidential Campaign

Main Article: United States presidential election, 1960

Nixon easily won the Republican nomination for the presidency, but ran a poor campaign in the general election. Despite division over the modern civil rights movement, the country was enjoying a period of relative prosperity.

The most prominent issues were the Cold War and the new assumption of power of dictator Fidel Castro of Cuba. Public opinion polls showed that the country trusted Nixon more on foreign policy issues while Democrat opponent John F. Kennedy was favored on domestic issues. 1960 marked the first presidential election in which televised debates were used. Kennedy won the debates, which resulted in him defeating Nixon by a razor-thin margin of 49.7 percent of the vote to 49.5 percent. Nixon believed that there was voter fraud in Cook County, Illinois which resulted in him losing that state, however Nixon chose not to contest the results. Kennedy's lead in the electoral college was such that he still would have been elected even if he had lost Illinois.

1962 Gubernatorial Campaign

After the election Nixon returned to California and ran for Governor in 1962 against incumbent Pat Brown. Brown defeated Nixon with 52 percent of the vote to 46 percent. In a post-election press conference Nixon announced the end of his political career and said to the press “you won't have Richard Nixon to kick around with anymore.” However, Nixon continued to campaign for Republican congressional candidates and traveled the world, sharpening his knowledge of foreign issues.

1968 Presidential Campaign

Main Article: United States presidential election, 1968

By 1967 Nixon's financial backers were raising funds to bankroll another bid for the White House. In the Republican primaries and caucuses moderates and liberals supported Michigan Governor George Romney and later New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, while conservatives supported California Governor Ronald Reagan. Nixon was able to win support from southern conservatives and pass Reagan in the polls, eventually winning the nomination. In Nixon's second attempt for the Presidency the United States was in the midst of the Vietnam War, with Democrats associated with the violence. With President Lyndon Johnson losing credibility because of the increasingly unpopular war, he declined to run for another term. Vice President Hubert Humphrey narrowly won the Democrat nomination. Alabama Governor George Wallace, a strong segregationist, entered the race as a third party candidate. Nixon promised to end the bombing in Vietnam, unify the nation and restore law and order to the country.

President Johnson helped Humphrey after he announced that bombing in North Vietnam would be halted and that a cease-fire would follow, however his announcement was too late. On election day, Nixon defeated Humphrey by over 100 electoral votes, although he won the election with only 43 percent of the vote to 42 percent, partly because Wallace took 13 percent.

1972 Reelection Campaign

Main Article: United States presidential election, 1972

President Nixon's reelection campaign got underway in 1972. He had high approval ratings for his handling China and the Soviet Union. Nixon's Democrat opponent, South Dakota Senator George McGovern was viewed too liberal by many Americans. However, there was still concern in the Nixon camp because of his close victory in 1968 and the continued involvement in the Vietnam War. He chose to engage in tactics that included an effort to steal information in the Democrat Party's headquarters. Five Nixon supporters broke into the party's office at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972. However, this did not become an issue in the campaign, with President Nixon trumping McGovern in 49 out of 50 states.

Presidency (1969-1974)


Vietnam War

Two months after coming into office American deaths in Vietnam reached thirty-six hundred. Nixon appointed Harvard Professor Henry Kissinger as National Security Adviser, who had secret peace talks with the North Vietnamese. Peace negations dragged on throughout Nixon's first term. His Vietnam strategies included “Vietnamization,” a policy aimed at reducing U.S. casualties and troops, while convincing the American public that the Vietnamese people could assume the primary responsibility of waging war. To win support for the war among the "silent majority," Nixon pursued the "politics of polarization." Instrumental to this cause was Nixon's first vice president Spiro T. Agnew, who criticized opponents of the war as “nattering nabobs of negativism,” and an “effete corps of impudent snobs.” Nixon also sought to instill in the North Vietnamese the belief that he was volatile and unstable, and willing to use nuclear weapons in the war, a strategy known as the “madman scenario.”

On April 30, 1970, ten days after announcing that 150,000 American troops would be withdrawn from Vietnam in the following year, Nixon announced that U.S. troops had invaded Cambodia. This announcement brought widespread protests and college and university campuses across the nation. Four students were shot by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio and two died at Jackson State University in Mississippi. Many campuses shut down, some for the remainder of the academic year. The Paris Peace Accords were signed on January 27, 1973, signaling the beginning of the peace process that ended with the evacuation of the last American personnel two years later on April 30, 1975. Pictures of the last U.S. Marines evacuating the American Embassy by helicopter while civilians, many of which were employed by the Americans during the war, attempted to climb aboard, has become a symbol of the U.S. defeat in Vietnam.

Policy of Detente


Nixon worked to establish a friendlier relationship with the Soviet Union and China. The Soviets were not pleased of Nixon, a man who spent his career attacking communism, had become President. Although still a strong anti-communist, Nixon understood the growing role of China and Western Europe, realizing that he had to be more diplomatic. With the help of National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, Nixon created an approach called Detente, which was relaxed tensions between the United States and its two major communist rivals, the Soviet Union and China. Nixon began the policy of detente by lifting trade and travel restrictions.

After a long series of highly secret negations between Kissinger and Chinese leaders, Nixon announced that he would visit China in February 1972. During the historic trip, the leaders of both nations agreed to have a more normal relationship. Nixon told the Chinese during a banquet toast, “Let us start a long march together, not in lockstep, but on different roads leading to the same goal, the goal of building world structure of peace and justice.” In taking the trip, Nixon hoped to both strengthen ties with China but also believed it would encourage the Soviet Union to be more diplomatic. He proved to be correct.

Shortly after the public learned about China, the Soviets proposed an American-Soviet summit, a high level diplomatic meeting that was held in May 1972. President Nixon flew to Moscow for a week long summit, thus becoming the first American President since World War 2 to visit the Soviet Union. The two superpowers signed the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, or SALT 1, a plan to limit nuclear arms that the two nations had been working on for years. Nixon and Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev also agreed to increase trade and exchange scientific information. President Nixon had made a significant mark on the world stage with major foreign policy triumphs.

Environmentalism and Socialism of Nixon

Although Nixon was a member of the Republican Party, he had many liberal positions. In his tenure he enacted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Nixon also fought “Global warming”.<ref></ref>


The event that ended the Nixon presidency began on June 17, 1972, when five men, all employees of Nixon's reelection campaign (CREEP), were caught breaking into rival Democratic headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, DC. The intruders and two other accomplices were convicted of burglary and wiretapping in Jan. 1973. The Watergate affair ultimately caused Nixon to resign on August 9, 1974. On September 9, 1974, his successor Gerald Ford granted him “a full, free, and absolute pardon.” This effectively ended investigation into the depth of Nixon's involvement in the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate hotel, or any other criminal activities. Former White House Counsel John Dean testified to a Congressional investigating committee of Nixon's involvement in the cover-up.

The Congressional hearings revealed Nixon had tape recorded conversations and telephone calls in his office. These recordings reveal that Nixon's role in the cover-up began as early as six days after the break-in. The tapes also reveal an immense scope of crimes and abuses that predate the Watergate break-in. These include campaign fraud, political espionage and sabotage, illegal break-ins, improper tax audits, illegal wiretapping on a massive scale, and a secret slush fund laundered in Mexico to pay those who conducted these operations. The president, citing Executive Privilege, refused to turn the tapes over to the committee. In October 1973 Nixon ordered Elliot Richardson, the attorney general, to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who had subpoenaed the tapes, but Richardson resigned in protest. Richardson's assistant, William Ruckelshaus, also refused to fire Cox and was fired by Nixon. Finally, Solicitor General Robert Bork fired Cox. The incident, which was trumped in the press as the “Saturday Night Massacre”, led to widespread calls for Nixon's impeachment.

The White House released edited transcripts of the tapes in April 1974, and eventually the tapes themselves, after the Supreme Court rejected Nixon's claim to executive privilege. The House Judiciary Committee issued three articles of impeachment on July 30, 1974.

“In all of this,” the articles of impeachment summarize, “Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.” After conferring with Republican Senators Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. Nixon was succeeded in office the same day by Gerald Ford. Ford later pardoned Nixon.

The Nixon White House was also involved in controversies in Latin America, which included an alleged assassination attempt in Chile, among other questionable activities.


Nixon married Thelma Catherine Ryan, known as “Pat”, in 1940. They had two children: Patricia (b. 1946) and Julie (b. 1948).



Further reading

  • Aitken, Jonathan. Nixon: A Life (1993).
  • Ambrose, Stephen. Nixon (3v 1987-1991), the standard scholarly biography excerpt and text search vol 1; hostile to RN
  • Black, Conrad. Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full (2007) 1150pp; by a conservative; friendly to RN
  • Bundy, William. A Tangled Web: The Making of Foreign Policy in the Nixon Presidency (1998). excerpt and text search
  • Congressional Quarterly. Congress and the Nation, 1968-1972 (1973). Detailed coverage of all the official actions in Washington
  • Dallek, Robert. Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power (2007) excerpt and text search
  • Frick, Daniel. Reinventing Richard Nixon: A Cultural History of an American Obsession. (2008). 344 pages
  • Greenberg, David. Nixon's Shadow: The History of the Image (2004), influential study of his changing reputation excerpt and text search
  • Hoff, Joan. Nixon without Watergate (1994) a favorable estimate of the presidential years; also titled Nixon Reconsidered; online edition
  • Kutler, Stanley I. Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon (1992), strongly hostile excerpt and text search
  • MacMillan, Margaret. Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World (2007)
  • Matusow, Allen J. Nixon's Economy: Booms, Busts, Dollars, and Votes (1998) excerpt and text search
  • Nixon, Richard. RN: Memoirs (1978),a primary source; one of the most important presidential autobiographies excerpt and text search
  • Pietrusza, David 1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign that Forged Three Presidencies New York: Union Square Press, 2008
  • Reeves, Richard. President Nixon: Alone in the White House (2002). well-received study of the White House years (2002) excerpt and text search
  • Schoenebaum, Eleanora, ed. Political Profiles: The Nixon/Ford Years (1979), biographies of all the main political figures
  • Small, Melvin. The Presidency of Richard Nixon (1999) excerpt and text search; hostile
  • Suri, Jeremi. Henry Kissinger and the American Century (2007)

Primary Sources by Nixon

  • Victory Without War, New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1989.
  • Beyond Peace, New York, NY: Random House, 1994.
  • Four Great Americans: Tributes Delivered by President Richard Nixon. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1973.
  • In the Arena: A Memoir of Victory, Defeat, and Renewal, New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1990.
  • Leaders New York, NY: Warner Books, 1982.
  • Nixon in Retrospect, 1946-1962: Selected Quotations. Silver Spring, MD: Research Data Publishers, 1973.
  • No More Vietnams, New York, NY: Arbor House, 1985.
  • Real Peace. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1990.
  • RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1990.
  • Seize the Moment: America’s Challenge in a One- SuperpowerWorld. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
  • Setting the Course; The First Year, New York, NY: Funk & Wagnalls, 1970.
  • Six Crises. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1990.
  • Summons to Greatness: A Collage of Inspirational Thought and Practical Ideas from the Messages and Addresses of Richard Nixon, Thirty-Seventh President of the United States, Washington, D.C.: Friends of President Nixon, 1972.
  • The Real War, New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1980.
richard_nixon.txt · Last modified: 2020/03/12 18:37 (external edit)