Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9 , 1913 - April 22 , 1994) was the thirty-sixth (1953 - 1961) Vice President, and the thirty-seventh (1969 - 1974) President of the United States. He is the only President to have resigned from office. His resignation came in response to the complex of scandals called the Watergate conspiracy.
Birth and early yearsNixon was raised as an 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 resemblance 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 attendant 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 a lawyer for PepsiCo .
Early political careerNixon 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 , defeating actress/congresswoman Helen Gahagan , who Nixon accused during the campaign of having communist sympathies.
Vice PresidencyIn 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 . He also proved to be able to quickly think on his feet which was demonstrated on July 24 , 1959 at the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow where Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had an impromptu "kitchen debate" about the merits of capitalism vs communism .
1960 election and post-Vice PresidencyIn 1960 , he ran for President on his own but lost to John F. Kennedy , ironically a friend of Nixon's (Kennedy, in fact, was one of the first to congratulate Nixon when he was chosen as Eisenhower's running mate). A crucial factor in his loss was the first televised presidential debate . Despite his five o'clock shadow , 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.
On November 7 , 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".
PresidencyThe 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.
Major initiatives during his presidency:
The Nixon administration's massive bombing campaigns of Cambodia and its support for the overthrow of the neutralist royal government of Sihanouk by the rightist military dictator Lon Nol drove much of the peasant population of that country into the arms of the Khmer Rouge , a Maoist revolutionary movement that would kill 1.7 million Cambodians after taking power.
On January 5 , 1972 Nixon ordered the development of a space shuttle program. Nixon's name appears alongside former UN Secretary General U Thant 's on a special plaque that was placed on the moon's surface.
On January 2 , 1974 Nixon signed a bill that lowered the maximum US speed limit to 55 MPH in order to conserve gasoline during the first OPEC oil embargo.
Nixon was eventually investigated for the instigation and cover-up of the burglary of the Democratic Party offices at the Watergate office complex, one of a series of scandals involving CREEP (the Committee to Re-Elect the President), which also included the enemies list and assorted "dirty tricks." 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" in the Watergate Scandal . He lost support from his own party as well as the country in the Saturday Night Massacre in which he 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. The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee opened formal and public impeachment hearings against Nixon on May 9 , 1974 . Rather than face impeachment by the House of Representatives and a conviction by the Senate , he resigned effective August 9 , 1974 .
His successor, Gerald R. Ford , issued a pre-emptive pardon, ending the investigations.
Nixon's presidency was frequently dogged by Nixon's personality, and the public perception of it. Editorial cartoonists and comedians had fun exaggerating Nixon's appearance and mannerisms, to the point where the line between the human president and the caricature version of him became increasingly blurred. He was usually portrayed as a sullen loner, with unshaven jowels, slumped shoulders, and a furrowed, sweaty brow. He was, to some, especially the younger generation, the very epitome of a "square," and the personification of unpleasant adult authority. Nixon tried to shed these perceptions by staging photo-ops with young people, and even appearing on popular TV shows such as Laugh-In and Hee Haw . He also frequently brandished the two-finger "peace sign" with his hands, an act which became one of his best-known trademarks.
Last Years and DeathIn 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.
In July 2003 , Jeb Stuart Magruder alleged that Nixon had personally ordered the Watergate break-in by phone. Previously the only guilt that was alleged was his role in the cover up of the break in.
Nixon wrote many books after his departure from politics, including a history of the Vietnam war and his own personal memoirs .
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 unique in that it is privately funded; other presidential libraries receive support from the National Archives .
Supreme Court appointments
Nixon in the mediaRichard Nixon has appeared as a character, both major and minor, in a variety of movies and productions:
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