Richard Nixon

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Richard M. Nixon
Richard M. Nixon
Term of office January 20, 1969 – August 9, 1974
Preceded by Lyndon B. Johnson
Succeeded by Gerald R. Ford
Date of birth January 9, 1913
Place of birth Yorba Linda, California
Spouse Thelma Catherine Patricia Ryan (Pat) Nixon
Political party Republican

Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913April 22, 1994) was the thirty-seventh President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. He was also the thirty-sixth Vice President (19531961) serving under Dwight D. Eisenhower. He is the only man to have been elected twice to the Vice Presidency and twice to the Presidency, and he was the fifth Republican President to be elected to two terms. Nixon is noted for his diplomatic foreign policy and moderate domestic policy. He is also remembered as the first and only U.S. President to have ever resigned from office. His resignation came after a loss of support in Congress amidst impending impeachment proceedings related to the Watergate scandal.

As president, Nixon imposed wage and price controls, indexed Social Security for inflation, created SSI, continued the Great Society, and seriously considered establishing a minimum income for all Americans. The number of pages added to the Federal Register each year doubled under Nixon. He gave real life to federal drug policy, advocated gun control (believing that, in an ideal world, handguns would be outlawed), and eradicated the last remnants of the gold standard. Nixon also created the EPA and OSHA and implemented the Philadelphia Plan, the first significant federal affirmative action program.


Birth and early years

Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California on January 9, 1913, to Francis Nixon and Hannah Milhous, who was descended from a German family originally called Milhausen. He was raised as an evangelical Quaker by his mother, who hoped he would become a Quaker missionary. His upbringing is said to have been marked by such conservative evangelical Quaker observances as refraining from drinking, dancing and swearing. His father (known as Frank) was a Methodist who had sincerely converted to Quakerism but never fully absorbed its spirit, retaining instead a volatile temper.

His father focused on the family business, a store that sold groceries and ARCO (then Atlantic Richfield) gasoline. Nixon always spoke highly of his parents. He often spoke lovingly of his mother as a "Quaker saint," and began his memoirs with the words "I was born in a house my father built." Today, the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace has been erected next to the original house in Yorba Linda, which is open to the public; however, Nixon actually grew up some miles away, in Whittier, California. Today, this area is completely built up, but in Nixon's time, it was almost entirely farmland. Nixon's early life was marked by tragedy in the deaths of two of his brothers, Arthur and Harold, from tuberculosis.

The young Lt Commander Richard Nixon of the US Navy 1945

Nixon attended Fullerton High School from 1926-28 and Whittier High School from 1928-30. He graduated first in his class, with honors and was the General Manager of the Student Body in his senior year. He won an award from the Harvard Club of California as the state's outstanding high school senior. Among other achievements, he had a penchant for Shakespeare and Latin, and could recite long passages by heart. The award from Harvard provided him with a full scholarship, but since it did not cover living expenses, Nixon's family was unable to afford to send him away to college. Some historians and commentators have speculated that Nixon's lifelong antipathy towards the "Eastern Establishment" had its genesis in this initial letdown. In lieu of Harvard, Nixon attended Whittier College, a local Quaker school where he founded the Orthogonian Society, a fraternity that competed with the already established Franklin Society. Nixon then went on to become the student body president of Whittier College. A lifelong football buff, Nixon practiced with the team assiduously but spent most of his time on the bench. His front teeth were knocked out and replaced by the rather prominent bridgework that later afforded caricaturists a field day. Nixon's chief accomplishment as student body president was organizing Whittier College's first school dance, a practice forbidden by the Quakers.

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. In order to retain his scholarship, Nixon had to maintain a high grade-point average. At one point, he was so overwrought about his grade results that he persuaded a cohort to help him through the transom door of the Dean's office, so that he could check the files. He was not punished. Years later, this incident came to light, and the press trumpeted it as "Nixon's first break-in."

Graduating third in his class, Nixon hoped to secure a job with one of the prestigious "white-shoe" law firms in New York City. For a variety of reasons, he had no luck. Some writers have agreed with Nixon's own explanation--that he lacked the requisite Ivy League pedigree and family connections--but it is also possible that he interviewed poorly. Around the time of Watergate, one of the senior partners at White & Case found notes from the original interview. The partner who had met Nixon opined that the future president came across as "shifty."

As a result, 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 discomfiture, 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 Pat. She had accepted a position as a high-school teacher in Whittier. They became acquainted at a community Little Theater group when they were cast in the same play. At first, Pat displayed little interest in Nixon, who nonetheless pursued her so doggedly that he even drove her around on dates she had with other men. They were married at the Mission Inn in Riverside, California on June 21, 1940.

During World War II, Nixon served in the United States Navy. He could have been exempt from military service because of his status as a birthright Quaker, but volunteered anyway. Reportedly, his mother burst into tears when she first saw him in uniform. He later stated he hated Hitler and was horrified by the attack on Pearl Harbor. Nixon served as a Cargo Officer in the South Pacific theater and put his shopkeeper's skills to work operating "Nick's Snack Shack," where military personnel could pick up hamburgers and fruit juice. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander and his superiors praised him as an excellent officer and leader. One interesting footnote about Nixon's naval career is that he learned to play poker (another taboo under Quakerism) and quickly became known as the best poker player in the Navy, having apparently won almost $10,000 by war's end. It was in the Navy he met his future friend and Secretary of State William P. Rogers.

Early political career

Nixon was elected to the United States House of Representatives from California in 1946 by beating Jerry Voorhis, in a campaign which some charge was a result of underhanded political skullduggery. The campaign he ran against Voorhis highlighted the aggressive campaigning style of which Nixon was one of the pioneers. During a debate with Voorhis he held up a list of members of a Political Action Committee (PAC) from which Voorhis received substantial campaign donations. Then he held up a list of members from a Left-Wing PAC with Communist affiliations, and said that there were a few people who were in both Committees. Nixon said "they're basically the same, if their members are the same..." Although Nixon's allegations were untrue, they succeeded and Voorhis was booed by the crowd. Many voters allegedly received phone calls in the middle of the night telling them that Voorhis was a Communist.

Richard Nixon with his wife Pat.
Richard Nixon with his wife Pat.

The 80th Congress was the first with a Republican majority since the Hoover administration and its freshman class was filled with fellow war veterans, including Nixon's future rival John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

In the House, Nixon served on a committee that helped to implement the Marshall Plan which aided war-torn Europe. He also helped in the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act which set up controls over labor unions. He proposed a bill to facilitate servicemen's voting that was passed by both houses and signed into law. Nixon climbed the political ladder swiftly, making his name as an anti-Communist and a rough, no-holds-barred campaigner. He became a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee and was instrumental in the trial of State Department Undersecretary and General Secretary of the United Nations Charter meeting Alger Hiss for perjury after the exposure of his alleged activities as a Soviet spy. Whether Hiss was guilty or not is still in dispute, although evidence from Soviet archives released in the 1990s tends to point to his guilt. In 1948, Nixon won both the Republican and Democratic nomination for re-election to the House.

Nixon was elected to the United States Senate in 1950, defeating actress turned congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas, whom Nixon accused during the campaign of having communist sympathies, calling her the "Pink Lady." In the campaign the Independent Review newspaper tagged Nixon with a nickname he would never shake: "Tricky Dick". As with Voorhis, Nixon used the tactic of "guilt by association," printing an attack against Douglas on pink paper, listing a number of votes in Congress in which she voted the same as a left-wing Congressman from New York, Vito Marcantonio.

Upon Nixon's election to the vice-presidency, Governor Earl Warren appointed Thomas Kuchel to succeed him in his Senate seat.

Vice Presidency

Nixon and Eisenhower at a 1952 Campaign stop
Nixon and Eisenhower at a 1952 Campaign stop

In 1952 he 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 financies, which he cited as exonerating him from wrongdoing, and he charged that the Democratic Presidential candidate, Adlai Stevenson, also had a slush fund (see Memoirs of Richard Nixon, page 99). 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 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 he and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had an impromptu "kitchen debate" about the merits of capitalism versus communism.

Although regarded as one of the most intellectual U.S. presidents, Nixon displayed a somewhat anti-intellectual streak during the 1952 campaign, criticizing the extremely intelligent Democratic presidential nominee, Adlai Stevenson, as an "egghead."

1960 election and post-Vice Presidency

Vice President Nixon, right, and Senator John Kennedy during their TV debate prior to the 1960 presidential election
Vice President Nixon, right, and Senator John Kennedy during their TV debate prior to the 1960 presidential election

In 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). Many observers believe that a crucial factor in his loss was the first televised presidential debate. Despite his five o'clock shadow, Nixon refused television makeup (instead using simple "Lazy Shave" coverup makeup) and was feeling sick, having recently injured his knee while campaigning. Nixon likewise was instructed by CBS television producers to wear a grey suit that blended into the backdrop, whereas Kennedy was told by the same producer to wear a black suit which would stand out when black and white television was the standard. 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 comfortable in his position. It has since been widely suggested, with some support from research, that those who had listened to the debate on radio thought Nixon was more impressive [1], but that the television audience gave the edge to Kennedy. Also, Eisenhower did not show much support for Nixon, and only reluctantly endorsed him as the Republican candidate at the 1960 Presidential election. Nixon campaigned against Kennedy on the great experience he had acquired in eight years as Vice President, but when Eisenhower was asked to name a decision Nixon had been responsible for in that time, he replied: "Give me a week and I might think of something." Although Eisenhower later said he intended that remark to mean he would discuss Nixon's achievements the following week, this was a severe blow to Nixon, and he blamed Eisenhower for his narrow loss to Kennedy.

On November 7, 1962, he 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 won't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more." Many mocked Nixon for being a "sore loser" for saying this to the reporters. However, many others praised Nixon for telling the press off. He often said that he never regretted his comments at this famous press conference.

Coincidentally, Nixon was in Dallas earlier on November 22, 1963, the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Nixon spoke to a meeting of Pepsi-Cola bottlers.


Nixon's post-election defeatist mood did not last. He and his family moved into a 12-room luxury apartment on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Nixon worked as a prominent lawyer at the New York firm of Nixon Mudge Rose Guthrie & Alexander, using these so-called "wilderness" years in the private sector to earn more money ($250,000 per year, by some accounts--equivalent to over $1 million today) and to solidify his political base. During the 1966 Congressional elections, he traveled the country speaking in support of Republican candidates and preparing for another campaign of his own. In the election of 1968, he completed a remarkable political comeback by defeating Hubert H. Humphrey to become the 37th President of the United States, in a campaign where he promised to end the Vietnam War. He was the first Vice-President to be elected President who did not succeed the President under whom he had served.

Nixon meets Elvis Presley in December 1970
Nixon meets Elvis Presley in December 1970

Nixon appealed to what he claimed was the "silent majority" of socially conservative Americans who disliked the "hippie" counterculture and anti-war demonstrators. Nixon also promised "peace with honor," and without claiming to be able to win the war, Nixon claimed that "new leadership will end the war and win the peace in the Pacific". When a reporter pressed Nixon for specifics, he did not reveal any details. Because of this, Nixon's opponents criticized him for not revealing his secret plan to end the Vietnam War, although Nixon had not used this famous phrase. Still, many voters supported Nixon because they believed he would end the war.

He proposed the Nixon Doctrine to establish a strategy of turning over the fighting of the war to the Vietnamese. During the war, on July 30, 1969, Nixon made an unscheduled visit to South Vietnam, and met with President Nguyen Van Thieu and with U.S. military commanders. American involvement in the war declined while Nixon was in office. But there would be four more years of strategic bombing, with more bombs dropped than in World War II. After the withdrawal of U.S. troops, fighting was left to the ineffective South Vietnamese army.

Nixon's administration secretly began a massive bombing campaign 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. The bombing campaign was kept secret from the American public and the U.S. Congress. Militarily ineffective, the bombing campaigns killed approximately one hundred thousand Cambodian peasants. However, NVA communist forces did use Cambodian soil as a supply line to the Vietcong in the south.

President Nixon greets released POW (and future Republican Senator) Navy officer John McCain (on crutches) after years of imprisonment in North Vietnam, 1973.
President Nixon greets released POW (and future Republican Senator) Navy officer John McCain (on crutches) after years of imprisonment in North Vietnam, 1973.

In ordering the bombings, Nixon realized he would be extending an unpopular war as well as breaching Cambodia's "official" neutrality. He also understood that the war was politically un-winnable due to massive demonstrations. Details of the bombing were kept secret even from high ranking officials such as Secretary of State William P. Rogers and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During deliberations over Nixon's impeachment, his unorthodox use of executive powers over the ordering of these bombings were considered as an article of impeachment, but the charge was dropped. This bombing (and an incursion by U.S. forces into Cambodian territory in April 1970) added to the administration's tacit support for the overthrow of the neutralist royal government of Norodom Sihanouk by the rightist military dictator Lon Nol, created chaos, and drove much of the peasant population of that country into the arms of the Khmer Rouge, a Maoist revolutionary movement that would eventually kill 1.7 million Cambodians after taking power.

On the morning of July 20, 1969, Nixon addressed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during their historic moonwalk, live via telephone. Along with those of the astronauts, Nixon's name and signature were inscribed on the plaques left behind by Apollo 11 in 1969 and Apollo 17 in 1972. Ironically it was the Democrat controlled Congress and President Nixon who had wound down the NASA budget and curtailed the Apollo program due to budget pressures caused principally by the vast expense of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. On January 5, 1972 Nixon approved the development of the Space Shuttle program, a decision that profoundly influenced U.S. efforts to explore and develop space for several decades thereafter.

President Nixon greets Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao (left) in China visit 1972
President Nixon greets Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao (left) in China visit 1972

Nixon halted circulation of high-denomination U.S. currency in 1969 by executive order. At the time, he stated that he was taking this action to "make life harder for the Mafia." His comment drew irate criticism from many Americans of Italian ancestry, who regarded it as an ethnic slur.

In 1972 Nixon was re-elected in one of the biggest landslide election victories in U.S. political history, defeating George McGovern and garnering over 60% of the popular vote. He carried 49 of the 50 states, trailing only in Massachusetts. The strongest candidate against Nixon, Edmund Muskie, had been sabotaged by underhanded tactics, probably on Nixon's orders.

The 60s were a period of detente between the Western and Eastern Blocs. That changed dramatically by the early 70s. In 1960, the People's Republic of China ended the alliance with its biggest ally, the USSR, in the Sino-Soviet Split. As tensions between the two communist nations reached its peak in 1969 and 1970, Nixon decided to use their conflict to shift the balance of power towards the West in the Cold War. In what later would be known as the "China Card", Nixon deliberately improved relations with China in order to blackmail the Soviet Union. In 1972, Richard Nixon became the first US president to visit "Red" China. Fearing the possibility of a Sino-American alliance, the Soviet Union yielded to Nixon immediately. The first Strategic Arms Limitation Talks were finally concluded the same year.

Concerning South America, Nixon supported the wave of military "golpe de Estado" that took on the continent. With Henry Kissinger, he gave at least an implicit help to Augusto Pinochet's coup, in 1973, and then helped set up operation Condor, as have shown the CIA documents released in 2000, following Pinochet's arrest in 1998. A US-intelligence base in Panama canal coordinated the acts of the various latino secret services (Chilean DINA, Venezuelian DISIP, etc.)

On January 2, 1974, Nixon signed a bill that lowered the maximum U.S. speed limit to 55 MPH in order to conserve gasoline during the 1973 energy crisis. He established the EPA on December 2, 1970.

On April 3, 1974, Nixon announced he would pay $432,787.13 in back taxes plus interest after a Congressional committee reported that he had inadvertently underpaid his 1969 and 1972 taxes.


Official Portrait of President Richard Nixon.
Official Portrait of President Richard Nixon.
President Richard Nixon 1969–1974
Vice President Spiro T. Agnew 1969–1973
  Gerald R. Ford 1973–1974
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
Justice 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
Interior Walter J. Hickel 1969–1971
  Rogers C. B. Morton 1971–1974
Agriculture Clifford M. Hardin 1969–1971
  Earl L. Butz 1971–1974
Commerce Maurice H. Stans 1969–1972
  Peter George Peterson 1972–1973
  Frederick B. Dent 1973–1974
Labor George P. Shultz 1969–1970
  James D. Hodgson 1970–1973
  Peter J. Brennan 1973–1974
HEW Robert H. Finch 1969–1970
  Elliot L. Richardson 1970–1973
  Caspar W. Weinberger 1973–1974
HUD George Romney 1969–1973
  James T. Lynn 1973–1974
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:

Major initiatives


Main article: Watergate scandal
Nixon's letter of resignation
Nixon's letter of resignation
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.
Nixon departing the White House on August 9, 1974
Nixon departing the White House on August 9, 1974

During the campaign five burglars were arrested on June 17, 1972 in the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate office complex, they were linked to the White House. This became one of a series of major scandals involving the Committee to Re-Elect the President (known as CRP but referred to by outsiders as CREEP), including the White House enemies list and assorted "dirty tricks." The ensuing Watergate scandal exposed the Nixon administration's rampant corruption, illegality, and deceit. 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. Nixon evaded taxes, accepted illicit campaign contributions, ordered secret bombings, and harassed opponents with executive agencies, wiretaps, and break-ins. Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned in October 1973 for accepting bribes, but Nixon hung on to power, claiming, "I am not a crook." 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 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, and also revealed that Nixon arranged for the blackmailing of the CIA into telling the FBI to stop investigating certain topics because of "the Bay of Pigs thing." Several of the Watergate burglars were involved in the Bay of Pigs operation. Haldeman would later claim that when Nixon used the phrase "the Bay of Pigs thing," he was actually referring to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In light of his loss of political support and the near certainty of both his impeachment by the House of Representatives and his conviction by the Senate, he resigned on national television on August 9, 1974. He never admitted wrongdoing, though he later conceded errors of judgment. Had he not resigned, today he most likely would have been one of only three American presidents to have been impeached; the first being Andrew Johnson; the last, Bill Clinton.

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 often portrayed by these critics and commentators 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. Nixon tried to shed these perceptions by staging photo-ops with young people, and even cameo appearances on popular TV shows such as Laugh-In and Hee Haw (before he was president). 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 grandious belief in his own moral and political excellence, and his committment to utilize ruthless power at all costs led some experts to describe him as having a narcissistic and paranoid personality.[[2]]

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 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 is one of the major reasons cited for Ford's defeat in the election of 1976. During the Watergate Scandal, Nixon's approval rating had fallen to 25%.

Later years and death

In his later years Nixon worked to rehabilitate his public image, and 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.

Further tape releases, however, removed all doubt as to Nixon's involvement both in the Watergate cover-up and also the illegal campaign finances and intrusive government surveillance that were at the heart of the scandal.

In July 2003, Jeb Stuart Magruder, a former Special Assistant to the President, 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.

(Left to right:) Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the Reagan Presidential Library. This was the first gathering of five presidents in one place at the same time.
(Left to right:) Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the Reagan Presidential Library. This was the first gathering of five presidents in one place at the same time.

Nixon wrote many books after his departure from politics, including his memoirs.

While generally in good health, he was on lifelong warfarin anticoagulant therapy after multiple episodes of phlebitis or deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism starting in 1965 (these conditions would later contribute to his fatal stroke). He received surgery in 1974 for this problem (Barker et al 1997).

On April 18, 1994, at 5:45 PM EDT, Nixon suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke while preparing to eat dinner in his Park Ridge, New Jersey home. It was later determined that a blood clot that had formed in his upper heart as a result of his heart condition broke off and traveled to his brain. He was rushed to New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, where his condition deteriorated over the next several days. He might have lived longer had he been resuscitated using extraordinary measures, such as a respirator, but he refused such treatments, as he had stated in his earlier hospital visits. On April 22, Nixon passed away at 9:08 PM at the age of 81. 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.

Acting on his family's wishes, Nixon did not receive a state funeral, as customary for former presidents. However, President Bill Clinton, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and California Republican Governor Pete Wilson spoke at the April 27 funeral—the first for an American president since that of Lyndon B. Johnson (a service Nixon himself attended when president) on January 25, 1973. Also in attendance at Nixon's funeral were former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and their respective first ladies. Nixon was survived by his two daughters Tricia and Julie, along with his four grandchildren.

The Nixon Library contains only Nixon's pre- and post-presidential papers, as his presidential papers have been retained as government 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. Due to disputes over the papers, the library is privately funded and does not, like the other presidential libraries, receive support from the National Archives.


Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

Complete Nixon Resignation Speech (info)
Televised speech from the Oval Office on 8 August 1974 in entirety. (5.5 MB, ogg/Vorbis format).
Nixon Resignation Excerpt (info)
Excerpt of televised speech from the Oval Office on 8 August 1974. (80 KB, ogg/Vorbis format).
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Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
  • "You won't have Dick 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)

Foreign Policy

  • "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 Watergate

Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton watched over Nixon's funeral in 1994. He was the first president to die since Lyndon Johnson in the 70's while Nixon was still president.
Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton watched over Nixon's funeral in 1994. He was the first president to die since Lyndon Johnson in the 70's while Nixon was still president.
  • "When you get in these people when you...get these people in, say: "Look, the problem is that this will open the whole, the whole Bay of Pigs thing, and the President just feels that" ah, without going into the details... don't, don't lie to them to the extent to say there is no involvement, but just say this is sort of a comedy of errors, bizarre, without getting into it, "the President believes that it is going to open the whole Bay of Pigs thing up again. And, ah because these people are plugging for, for keeps and that they should call the FBI in and say that we wish for the country, don't go any further into this case", period!" The 'smoking gun tape' on June 23, 1972. Nixon was telling Haldeman to tell the CIA to stop the FBI investigation, by telling the CIA that it would 'open the whole Bay of Pigs thing.' Haldeman did give Nixon's order to the CIA's Richard Helms, who exploded into a rage of fury when told, according to Haldeman. Haldeman would later write that Nixon used the expression 'the Bay of Pigs thing' when he was referring to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
  • "I want to say this to the television audience. I made my mistakes, but in all of my years of public life, I have never profited, never profited from public service. I have earned every cent. And in all of my years of 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's a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got." November 17, 1973 Televised press conference with 400 Associated Press Managing Editors at Walt Disney World, Florida, Nixon summarized his responses to journalists' questions regarding speculation and criticism of his personal finances and the Watergate scandal.
  • "I don't give a shit what happens. I want you all to stonewall it, let them plead the Fifth Amendment, cover up or anything else, if it'll save it, save this plan. That's the whole point. We're going to protect our people if we can." (to Haldeman, tapes ordered released for the trial of Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Mitchell)
  • "I recognize that this additional material I am now furnishing may further damage my case," (after the ordered release of the White House tapes August 5, 1974)
  • "When the President does it, that means that it's not illegal." (explaining his interpretation of Executive Privilege to interviewer David Frost)
  • "I was under medication when I made the decision not to burn the tapes."
  • "Well, I screwed it all up real good, didn't I?"
  • "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.
  • "I think that the ability of the American people to review all that there is to know about their president using a microscope is wonderful. Still, I think some people get a little carried away when they take out their proctoscopes." (regarding the intense scrutiny which he was forced to endure.)

On peace

  • "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)


  • "Sock it to me?" (cameo on the television comedy series Laugh-In)
  • "I don't know a lot about politics, but I do know a lot about baseball."
  • "Solutions are not the answer."
  • "I would have made a good pope."
  • "Let me say this about that."
  • "cookie pushers and faggots in striped pants", referring to the Peace Corps and the State Dept. Foreign Service
  • "McCarthy goes after Communists with a shotgun; I go after them with a rifle."
  • "We are all Keynesians now."
  • "In all the decisions I have made in my public life, I have always tried to do what was best for the nation. I have never been a quitter."
  • "We did not live on the wrong side of the tracks, but we could hear the whistle real loud!"
  • "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

Anti-Semitic remarks

Nixons Anti-Semitism was a closely guarded secret only coming to light after he died.

  • July 5th 1971: Nixon, Haldeman, and Ziegler, 4:03 P.M., Oval Office Conversation #537-4; cassette #876
NIXON: Jewish families are close, but there's this strange malignancy that seems to creep among them -- radicalism. I can imagine how the fact that Ellsberg is in this must really tear a fella like Henry to pieces -- or Garment. Just like the Rosenbergs and all that. It just has to kill them. I feel horrible about it.
ZIEGLER: Could make up an English name.
HALDEMAN: ... Rosenstein could change his name. ...

[general laughter]

ZIEGLER: It is right. It's always an "Ellsberg."
NIXON: Every one's a Jew. Ellsberg's a Jew. Halperin's a Jew.
HALDEMAN: Gelb's a Jew.
NIXON: But there are [unclear] -- Hiss was not a Jew. Very interesting thing. So few of those who engage in espionage -- are Negroes. ... In fact, very few of them become Communists. If they do, they like, they get into Angela Davis -- they're more the capitalist type. And they throw bombs and this and that. But the Negroes. -- have you ever noticed? ... Any Negro spies?
HALDEMAN: Not intellectual enough, not smart enough... not smart enough to be spies.
NIXON: The Jews -- the Jews are, are born spies. You notice how many of them are just in up to their necks?
HALDEMAN: A basic deviousness.
  • 26th May 1971 Nixon: "You know, it's a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob? What is the matter with them? I suppose it is because most of them are psychiatrists."
  • 13th of September 1971 President Richard Nixon tells Bob Haldeman: "Now here's the point, Bob. Please get the names of the Jews. You know, the big Jewish contributors to the Democrats. Could you please investigate some of the cocksuckers? That's all."
  • 14th of September 1971 President Richard Nixon resumes the previous day's conversation with Bob Haldeman:

NIXON: What about the rich Jews? The IRS is full of Jews, Bob. HALDEMAN: What we ought to do is get a zealot who dislikes those people. NIXON: Go after them like a son of a bitch.

Media portrayals of Nixon's life

  • The book and movie All the President's Men tell Woodward and Bernstein's story of 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.
  • Authors Robert Gettlin and Len Colodny offer a fascinating and well-researched alternative explanation about Watergate in Silent Coup: The Removal of a President. The authors point to a Navy/Pentagon conspiracy that reached into the White House, one intended to dethrone Nixon as the Pentagon had been displeased with Nixon's desire to "open" China. Most interesting are many generally little-known details about Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's earlier background as a Navy communications intelligence officer and aide to Admiral Thomas Moorer, who had served as Chief of Naval Operations from 1967 to 1970.

Nixon in popular culture

Richard Nixon participating in Whacking Day on The Simpsons
Richard Nixon participating in Whacking Day on The Simpsons

Because of his place in American culture as a controversial President, Richard Nixon has appeared as a character (with varying degrees of verisimilitude), both major and minor, in a variety of fiction.


On December 28, 1968, Julie Nixon (Richard's daughter) and David Eisenhower (Dwight's grandson) were married.

The first Kennedy-Nixon debate occurred on April 21, 1947, when Democratic Congressman Frank Buchanan selected freshman congressmen Richard Milhous Nixon and John F. Kennedy to debate the Taft-Hartley Act at a public meeting. (Memoirs of RN: pgs. 42-43)

See also


  • Nixon, Richard. (1978). RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (Reprint). Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671707418.
  • Nixon, Richard. (1962). Six Crises. Doubleday. ISBN 0385001258.
  • Nixon, Richard. (1980). Real War. Sidgwich Jackson. ISBN 0283986506.
  • Nixon, Richard. (1982). Leaders. Random House. ISBN 0446512494.
  • Nixon, Richard. (1987). No More Vietnams. Arbor House Publishing. ISBN 0877956685.
  • Nixon, Richard. (1988). 1999: Victory Without War. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671627120.
  • Nixon, Richard. (1990). In the Arena: A Memoir of Victory, Defeat, and Renewal. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671723189.
  • Nixon, Richard. (1992). Seize The Moment: America's Challenge In A One-Superpower World. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671743430.
  • Nixon, Richard. (1994). Beyond Peace. Random House. ISBN 0679433236.

Further reading

  • Ambrose, Stephen E. (1991). Nixon: The Education of a Politician 1913–1962. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 067152836X.
  • Ambrose, Stephen E. (1989). Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962–1972. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671528378.
  • Ambrose, Stephen E. (1991). Nixon: Ruin and Recovery 1973–1990. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671691880.
  • Barker WF, Hickman EB, Harper JA, Lungren J. Venous interruption for pulmonary embolism: the illustrative case of Richard M. Nixon. Ann Vasc Surg 1997;11:387-90. PMID 9236996.
  • Nixon, RM. RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon 1136 pages - Simon & Schuster; SBN: 0671707418
  • Becker, Elizabeth. (1986). When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution. Public Affairs. ISBN 1891620002.
  • Franklin, H. Bruce. (2000). Vietnam and Other American Fantasies. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. ISBN 1558493328.
  • Hersh, Seymour M.. (1983). The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House. Summit Books. ISBN 0671447602.
  • Lasky, Victor. (1977). It Didn't Start With Watergate. Penguin. ISBN 0803738579.
  • Summers, Anthony. (2000). The Arrogance of Power The Secret World of Richard Nixon. Victor Gollancz ISBN 0575062436
  • Taylor, Gary. (1997). The birth of culture. Cultural Selection: Why Some Achievements Survive the Test of Time - And Others Don't, pp. 257-289. Harpercollins. ISBN 0465044883.

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Preceded by:
Jerry Voorhis
United States Congressman for the 12th District of California
Succeeded by:
Patrick J. Hillings
Preceded by:
Sheridan Downey
United States Senator from California
Succeeded by:
Thomas Kuchel
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Earl Warren
Republican Party Vice Presidential candidate
1952 (won), 1956 (won)
Succeeded by:
Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
Preceded by:
Alben W. Barkley
Vice President of the United States
January 20, 1953January 20, 1961
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Lyndon B. Johnson
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Dwight D. Eisenhower
Republican Party Presidential candidate
1960 (lost)
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Barry Goldwater
Preceded by:
Barry Goldwater
Republican Party Presidential candidate
1968 (won), 1972 (won)
Succeeded by:
Gerald Ford
Preceded by:
Lyndon B. Johnson
President of the United States
January 20, 1969August 9, 1974
Succeeded by:
Gerald Ford

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