Richard M. Nixon
Ohio Governor James Rhodes with President Richard Nixon, April 1968.
Richard Milhous Nixon was President of the United States of America from 1969 to 1974.
Nixon was born on January 9, 1913, in Yorba Linda, California. In 1934, he graduated from Whittier College, and in 1937, Nixon received a law degree from Duke University. For the next four years, he worked as an attorney in Whittier, California.
With World War II's outbreak, Nixon became an attorney for the United States Office of Price Administration. He remained in this position for just a single year, leaving it to join the United States Navy in 1942. He became a lieutenant commander in the Navy and was discharged in 1946.
Upon leaving the Navy, Nixon, a member of the Republican Party, embarked upon a career in politics. In 1946, he won election to the United States House of Representatives from California. While serving in the House of Representatives, Nixon helped force the Taft-Hartley Bill, which restricted labor unions, through Congress and helped overturn President Harry S. Truman's veto of this legislation. He also was a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which investigated communism in the United States in the early years of the Cold War. In 1950, Nixon became one of California's two United States Senators. He served in the Senate until 1953, when he became President Dwight Eisenhower's Vice President of the United States.
As vice president, Nixon proved to be a loyal supporter of President Eisenhower's policies. Because Eisenhower suffered from several serious health crises during his time in office, Nixon served as the virtual president of the United States on several occasions. While Nixon was a strong opponent to communism, he became Eisenhower's chief critic of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his accusations that numerous federal employees were communist sympathizers. In 1956, Eisenhower and Nixon won reelection to their respective offices.
In 1960, Richard Nixon ran as the Republican Party's candidate for President of the United States. In one of the closest presidential elections in history, John F. Kennedy, the Democratic candidate won. Nixon returned to California, where he unsuccessfully ran for that state's governor's seat in 1962. Following this setback, Nixon retired from politics and became an attorney in New York, New York.
Nixon's absence from politics was a short one. In 1968, the Republican Party selected Nixon as its candidate for the U.S. presidency. Nixon won the election primarily due to the Vietnam War. Americans were divided over this conflict. Some supported the war, while others questioned the validity and necessity of the conflict. By 1968, many Americans wanted to bring American troops home from the battlefield. Nixon campaigned on a pledge that he would slowly withdraw American forces from South Vietnam, turning the fighting over to the United States' South Vietnamese allies. Nixon did not promise to withdraw all American troops, but he clearly wanted to reduce the number of Americans participating in the conflict. Nixon also promised the American people that the United States would continue to oppose communist expansion around the world.
Nixon won the election of 1968. He carried Ohio with just forty-five percent of the state's vote. As president, Nixon's greatest accomplishments occurred in foreign affairs. Nixon did reduce the number of Americans in Vietnam from 500,000 men and women to fewer than 100,000 by 1972. Nevertheless, Nixon faced pressure from opponents to the Vietnam War for authorizing the bombing and invasion of Cambodia. Student protests, such as the one that erupted at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, occurred across the United States. Nixon also improved relations with China, a communist country, and increased communication with the Soviet Union. With these foreign policy successes, Nixon won reelection to the presidency in 1972. He won Ohio by more than 900,000 votes. However, in this election, Nixon was involved in a scandal known as the "Watergate Break-in." Nixon supporters broke into the Democratic Party National Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC, in 1972, hoping to steal the Democrats' campaign secrets. By 1974, it had become obvious that Nixon had lied to Congress, intentionally obstructed justice, and authorized the payment of hush money to the thieves. Rather than face impeachment, Nixon resigned as president on August 9, 1974. Nixon has been the only person to resign from the presidency. Due to his actions and those of other politicians during the 1960s and 1970s, many Americans became cynical of the government and its leaders.
Following his presidential term, Nixon retired from politics. Future presidents routinely asked for Nixon's advice on foreign affairs. Nixon also wrote several books on his presidential administration and politics in general. He died from a hemorrhagic stroke on April 22, 1994.