Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon

37th President, 1969-1974

Early Life and Pre-presidency

Official presidential portrait of Nixon Artist: James Anthony Wills, 1984

Official presidential portrait of Nixon
Artist: James Anthony Wills, 1984

  • Born Richard Milhous Nixon on January 9, 1913 in Yorba Linda, California.
  • Parents: Francis A. Nixon and Hannah Milhous. Siblings: Harold, Donald, Arthur, and Edward.
  • Attended East Whittier Elementary School, then Fullerton Union High School, then transferred to Whittier High School in 1928, graduating in 1930.
  • Enrolled at Whittier College in Whittier, California, graduating in 1934.
  • Received a full scholarship to enroll at Duke University School of Law in 1934. He graduated in 1937.
  • Applied for a job with the Federal Bureau of Investigation after graduation, but when he received no reply, he went back to California where he was admitted to the bar in 1937. He practiced law in La Habra, California until 1942.
  • Married Thelma “Patricia” Catherine Ryan (1912–1993) on June 21, 1940. Children: Patricia (1946– ) and Julie (1948– ).
  • Took a job at the Office of Price Administration in Washington. D.C. in January 1942 but stayed only four months.
  • Enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was inducted in August 1942. Served with the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command. After serving in the Navy in various capacities at various locations, he resigned his commision on January 1, 1946.
  • Ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and won in 1946. He served from 1947 to 1950.
  • Ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1950 and won. He served from 1950 to 1953.
  • Nominated as the Vice Presidential running mate of Dwight Eisenhower by the Republican Party in the 1952 election and won. He was re-elected Vice President to President Eisenhower in the 1956 election.
  • Ran as the Presidential candidate of the Republican Party in the 1960 election but lost to Democrat John F. Kennedy.
  • Returned to practicing law in California. He ran for Governor in 1962 but lost. He moved to New York City and continued with his law practice.
  • Nominated by the Republican Party as its Presidential candidate in the 1968 election. He won with 43% of the popular vote and a majority of the electoral votes.


 White House photograph of Nixon, ca. 1973

White House photograph of Nixon, ca. 1973

  • Took his oath of office on Januray 20, 1969 at the East Portico, U.S. Capitol.
  • On July 20, 1969, Nixon presided over the Apollo 11 mission that made the U.S. the first to land a man on the Moon.
  • On July 25, 1969 he announced the Nixon Doctrine in a press conference in Guam as part of his plan to end U.S. involvelment in Vietnam. This doctrine stated that all allied nations of the U.S. would bear responsibility for their own security and the U.S. would only interfere when requested.
  • Wanting to end the war in South Vietnam, Nixon announced a plan for the withdrawal of 25,000 troops from the country by the end of August 1969.
  • Signed the National Environmental Policy Act in January 1970, which led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. In December 1970, he signed the Clean Air Act, which created strict regulations on industrial and transportation pollution. Signed the Endangered Species Act in December 1973.
  • Signed the Postal Reorganization Act in August 1970. The law established the United States Postal Service as a separate government entity.
  • A voice-activated taping system was installed in several rooms in the White House, including the Oval Office, in April 1971.
  • Signed the Wage–Price Controls Bill in May 1971, which gave Nixon more authority to control wages, salaries, prices, and rents for one more year. In July 1971, he signed the Emergency Employment Act, which provided $2.25 billion to create jobs in the public service sector.
  • Visited the People’s Republic of China from February 21 to 27, 1972 to establish diplomatic relations between the two countries. It marked the first time a U.S. President visited China.
  • In May 1972, Nixon also became the first incumbent President to visit the U.S.S.R. There, he signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which limited the development of anti-ballistic missiles used to protect areas from nuclear weapons delivered by missiles.
  • On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested inside the Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. with wiretapping equipment. In August, Nixon denied any involvement in the break-in. The Washington Post broke the story linking the men to the Nixon administration. The revelations showed that Nixon’s aides had made several attempts to sabotage their political adversaries.
  • Nixon was re-elected for a second term in the 1972 election. When his Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned in October 1973 due to a scandal, Nixon nominated Gerald Ford to be his Vice President. Congress approved his nomination, and Ford was sworn in on December 6.
  • On April 30, 1973, he admitted responsibility for the Watergate scandal on television but denied having any prior knowledge of it. In July, Nixon refused to turn over tape recordings made in the White House after Federal Aviation administrator Alexander Butterfield revealed their existence to the Senate Watergate Committee.
  • In April 1974, after Nixon released 1200 pages of transcripts of converstations between him and his aides, the House Judiciary Committee opened impeachment proceedings against the President. The Supreme Court ruled that all the recorded tapes must be released. One of the tapes revealed that Nixon had been told about the connection of the break-in to his administration soon after it took place.
  • In July 1974, the House Judiciary Committee filed three articles of impeachment against Nixon: obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and the unconstitutional defiance of its subpoenas. On August 8, 1974, faced with certain impeachment after losing political support in Congress, Nixon addresed the nation on television stating he woud resign the Presidency, effective at noon the next day.


Nixon preparing to annouce the release of the transcriptsof the Watergate tapes, April 29, 1974

Nixon preparing to annouce the release of the
transcriptsof the Watergate tapes, April 29, 1974

  • Returned to his home “La Casa Pacifica” in San Clemente, California after he resigned.
  • Gerald Ford, Nixon’s Vice President, was sworn in as President on August 9, 1974.
  • On September 8, 1974, President Ford granted Nixon a “full, free, and absolute pardon…” Nixon released a statement expressing his regret over his actions in the scandal.
  • He fell ill in October 1974 and had to undergo surgery and a long recovery period.
  • Began to work on his memoirs in the beginning of 1975 and was paid $2 million dollars. RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon was published in 1978 and became a bestseller.
  • Visited China in February 1976 at the invitation of Mao Zedong. He would visit Beijing again in 1979.
  • In 1977, he was paid $600,000 to be interviewd by David Frost for a British television program.
  • Visited the U.K. in 1978 and met with Margaret Thatcher, who was then the leader of the Opposition.
  • Moved to New York in 1980, then to Saddle River, New Jersey in 1981.
  • Traveled to the U.S.S.R. in 1986 and met with Mikhail Gorbachev, who was then General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
  • After raising more that $20 million dollars of private money, opened the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundation in Yorba Linda, California on July 19, 1990. Former Presidents Ford and Reagan and then President President George H.W. Bush attended the dedication. In 2007, it became part of the Presidential libraries system maintained by the federal government and was renamed Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.
  • Founded the Nixon Center as a public policy think-tank in January 1991. It became The Center for the National Interest in March 2011.
  • Died on April 22, 1994 from complications of a stroke.
  • Did not have a state funeral as was his wish. His body lay in repose at the Nixon Library from April 26 until his funeral the next day. The funeral service was attended by four former U.S. Presidents (Ford, Carter, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush) and then President Bill Clinton, who delivered the eulogy. He was buried on the grounds of the Nixon Library.
  • The papers and tapes that Nixon surrendered to Congress during the Watergate investigation were initially kept by the government for fear they would be destroyed by Nixon if they were returned to him. After a legal battle that lasted 30 years, the Nixon and his estate eventually won the right to keep the papers, which are now at his library.