Monday, January 4, 2010
Richard M. Nixon
I chose Richard Milhous Nixon (1913- 1994) as my VIP for this week simply because his birthday anniversary is this week. The presidential election of 1968 in which Nixon became the 37th president was the first time I voted. The minimal voting age in all United States elections was 21 until the 27th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1971. Nixon was the only President of the United States ever to resign from office. He left office on August 9, 1974, while facing almost certain impeachment for his involvement in the Watergate scandal. This scandal included a break-in at the Democratic national headquarters and other illegal activities by members of his re-election committee. Nixon's attempt to cover up the crimes became a major part of the scandal. His successor, Gerald R. Ford, pardoned him for any crimes he committed while President. I remember well where I was when I heard the announcement of his resignation. I also remember the feeling of sadness for our nation to realize that a President would break the law and need to leave office. On that particular day I was driving our blue 1970 Chevrolet pickup up the Glenn Allen Highway to hunt Dall sheep in the McCarthy area. I was driving because my husband couldn't get the day off work and would fly up later with a hunting buddy. My two little girls, ages one and two, were with me in the truck. We were pulling our little thirteen-foot camp trailer - my very first time ever to pull a trailer on a highway. It was a very scary experience for me, especially while crossing a huge river on an old, one-way bridge made of two different sections of wooden planks - one strip of wood for the left tires and one strip of wood for the right tires. I consider it a major miracle that I was able to keep all the wheels where they were supposed to be and made it across the bridge instead of falling in the river! I was very grateful that my husband was there to drive home. Nixon was born on January 9, 1913, in Yorba Linda, California, a village thirty miles southeast of Los Angeles. He was the second of five sons born to his parents who were of the Quaker faith. In 1922, the Nixon's moved to Whittier where the parents opened a combination grocery store and gasoline station. When Richard was about ten, he began working as a bean picker. As a teenager, he worked as a handyman in a packing house, janitor at a swimming pool, and barker at an amusement park. While in college he worked as a bookkeeper and as manaqger of the vegetable department of his father's store. He attended elementary school in Yorba Linda, Whittier and nearby Fullerton. At Whittier High School, his favorite classes were history and civics. He played football and starred in debate. Nixon entered Whittier College, a Quaker institution, at age 17. he won several debating awards and became student body president there. He attended Duke University School of Law in Durham, North Carolina, on a scholarship. He was elected as president of the student law association and to the national law fraternity for honor students. He ranked third in a class of forty-four students when he graduated in 1937. The Great Depression was still in force when he graduated. He tried unsuccessfully to join the FBI and then a law firm in New York. He joined a law firm in Whittier, California, and later became a partner there. He met Thelma Catherine Ryan (1912-1993), nicknamed Pat by her father because she was born on the eve of St. Patrick's Day. They were married on June 21, 1940, and were later blessed with two daughters, Patricia (Tricia) (1946) and Julie (1948). Julie married David Eisenhower (1968), grandson of former President Eisenhower. Tricia married Edward Cox (1971). I think that at least one of these weddings was held in the White House. Nixon served in the United States Navy during World War II. He was an ensign in a naval air transport unit in the Pacific and was later promoted to lieutenant commander before the war ended in 1945. He was elected to his first political office in 1946 as a representative in the United States House of Representatives. There he served on a committee that laid the ground work for the Marshall Plan and other aid programs. He helped write the Taft-Hartley Act, which established controls over labor unions, and became a member of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He was re-elected to the House in 1948 and came to national prominence because of the Alger Hiss case. Hiss was a former State Department official who was accused of passing classified State Department documents to a Soviet spy ring during the 1930's. It was a case of Hiss's word against that of his accusers. Some members of the Un-American Activities Committee wanted to drop the case, but Nixon insisted that the charges needed to be proved or disproved. The question of communists in government was a huge political issue of that time. Hiss was convicted of perjury for his denial. Nixon was elected to the United States Senate in 1950. He was nominated in 1952 to run for Vice President on a ticket with General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He served two terms as Vice President, stepping in several times to keep the government running smoothly while Eisenhower recovered from a heart attack, a serious illness, and a stroke. Nixon campaigned for President against John F. Kennedy in a close and hard fought campaign. In the end Kennedy won by 114,,673 popular votes. Nixon carried 26 states to 22 for Kennedy, but Kennedy received 303 electoral votes compared to Nixon's 219. There were widespread charges of fraudulent vote counting in certain states. Nixon began a law practice in Los Angeles in 1961. He ran for governor of California in 1962 but lost to Governor Pat Brown. He began a new law practice in New York City in 1963. He became a partner in a Wall Street law and his associates placed his name first in the list of partners. Nixon and Spiro T. Agnew won the election of 1968 against Herbert H. Humphrey and Edmund S. Muskie. Some of the issues of their first administration were: the Vietnam War, relations with China and the Soviet Union, inflation, school desegregation, the space program, the environment, anti-war protests, and the women's liberation movement. Nixon and Agnew won a landslide victory in 1972 against George S. McGovern and Sargent Shriver. Nixon won 18 million more popular votes than McGovern - the widest margin of any presidential election. Nixon received 520 electoral votes to McGovern's 17. The Nixons brought a calm and reserved way of life to the White House. They preferred formal dress for their receptions and favored fox trots and waltzes for dancing. Nixon was the first President to play the piano since Harry Truman. He occasionally played the White House piano for guests. Nixon followed sports closely, especially professional football. The Nixons purchased a large estate in San Clemente, California, a beach resort between San Diego and Los Angeles. The residence was called the Western White House because Nixon spent working vacations there. Nixon's short second administration began with agreements to stop the fighting of the Vietnam War (January 27, 1973) and to begin exchanging prisoners. United States troops were out of South Vietnam in March 1973. Nixon continued his efforts to improve relations between the United States and China. Nixon ended the military draft and made the military an all-volunteer force. The year 1973 saw inflation of 8.8 percent. A fuel shortage led to reduced supplies of oil for home heating and industry and to gasoline rationing in some states. A Federal Energy Administration was set up in 1974 to deal with the energy shortage. The Watergate scandal hit early in 1973 when evidence was uncovered that linked several top White House aides with either the break-in or later attempts to hide information related to it. Nixon insisted that he didn't participate in either the break-in or the cover up. He promised a full investigation and named Archibald Cox as special prosecutor. Cox was later fired, and Leon Jaworski appointed. This led to a move to impeach Nixon. In addition to Nixon's problems, Vice President Agnew resigned when evidence was discovered that he accepted illegal payments while serving as an officeholder in Maryland and as Vice President. Nixon became the first President to appoint a Vice President under the procedures outlined in the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. He named House Minority Leader Gerald Ford as Agnew's successor. Ford became Vice President on December 6, 1973. When Nixon was forced to release tapes made in the White House meetings, three articles of impeachment were recommended. He resigned from office on August 9, 1973. Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th President at noon on that day. Ford became the first President who was never elected as Vice President or President. The Nixon's led a quiet life after his retirement. The Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace opened in 1990 in Yorba Linda, California. The library includes a museum. Nixon died at age 81 on 22 April 1994 of a stroke suffered at his Park Ridge, New Jersey, home. His burial was beside Pat in Yorba Linda, California, at the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Other items of interest during this time period are: 1) Golda Meir, a former Milwaukee, school teacher became prime minister of Israel (1969-1974); 2) Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. walked on the moon (July 1969); 3) China joined the United Nations (1971); 4) Civil war in Pakistan resulted in the creation of Bangladesh from the territory that had been East Pakistan (1971); 5) Revolution in Chili led to the death of President Salvador Allende, the first Marxist elected democratically to head a nation in the Western Hemisphere (1973); 6) The fourth Arab-Israel war erupted when Egypt and Syria attacked Israel (October 1973). Facts and information are from an article by Stephen E. Ambrose in World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 14, pp 428-438.