Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 – April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974, when he became the only president to resign (quit). Before that, Nixon was a Republican U.S. Representative and Senator from California and the 36th Vice President of the United States (from 1953 to 1961 under President Dwight Eisenhower).
His presidency is known for a start for diplomacy with China, a slow ending of the Vietnam War, domestic acts (such as OSHA and Environmental Protection) and an era of peace with the Soviet Union (communist Russia). He is also known for corruption and the Watergate scandal which resulted in the public losing trust in him and his resignation.
Early political career
Nixon was elected to the House of Representatives in 1946. When in the House, he was a member of House Un-American Activities Commission, a group of Congressmen that tried to expose people in the United States who might have been Communists.
He was later elected a Senator in 1950 after running a controversial campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas.
In the 1952 presidential election, Dwight D. Eisenhower selected Nixon to be vice-president. People accused him of receiving illegal money contributions to his campaign and some people wanted Eisenhower to pick a different vice president, but Eisenhower still kept Nixon.
The Republican Party decided to keep Nixon as their vice-presidential candidate and when Eisenhower won the election, Nixon became vice-president of the United States from 1953 to 1961.
In the presidential election of 1960, he ran against Democrat John F. Kennedy. Kennedy was expected to win at first (because he won the first television debate against Nixon), but as Election Day came closer and closer, Nixon was catching up. In the end, Kennedy won, but it was a very close election.
In 1968, Richard Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey in the presidential election and became president of the United States in 1969.
Nixon took over the Vietnam War from Lyndon Johnson and continued it with the strategy of slowly withdrawing U.S. troops, so that the South Vietnamese troops could take over the fighting by themselves. Nixon secretly bombed many enemy targets in Cambodia and North Vietnam while bringing home the American troops, to make it easier for South Vietnam to win. When his spreading the bombing to Cambodia and Laos became known in 1970, it caused larger protests than ever in America, including at Kent State and even in Washington, DC, where more than 12,000 were arrested in May 1971 at the peak of the protests. Partly because of the amount of opposition, Nixon sped up troop withdrawal and ended the draft.
Nixon was very successful in diplomacy (relations negotiations with foreign countries). He began a policy called “detente” which reduced tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The two countries would get along and sign treaties that would limit the production of nuclear weapons between both sides. Nixon traveled to communist China and established a very good relationship with them. Before that, there was almost no relationship between the United States and China. It opened up the door for decades of trade in the future, which is why many items in the United States were made in China. His diplomacy with China is seen as one of his greatest accomplishments. Later, under President Carter, the U.S. broke relations with the Republic of China and recognized communist China, not Taiwan, as the legal government of China.
At home, Nixon put many reforms into law. He created the Department of Environmental Protection, supported anti-drug laws, supported anti-crime laws, and supported anti-discrimination laws. When inflation (meaning the value of money goes down and prices go up) was high, he ordered that prices should be frozen for 90 days. Although, he was known as a conservative Republican before he became president, while he was President, he supported some of the liberal ideas that Democrats supported. In 1974, Nixon made a speech that outlined a plan for universal health care.
Nixon was re-elected by a landslide in 1972 with most Americans approving of him, but soon after, Nixon’s reputation would be destroyed and most Americans would disapprove of him. Due to a scandal called “Watergate” during which Nixon attempted to protect (or possibly ordered) men to burglarize the Democratic National Headquarters, Congress was going to put him on trial in a process called impeachment (to remove him from power). Nixon tried to cover up the scandal, but eventually, the Supreme Court ordered him to send his taped conversations (which included him talking about covering up Watergate) to them. Alexander Haig thought Nixon would be convicted and kicked out of office. To prevent this, Nixon resigned (quit) the Presidency in 1974.
Richard and Pat Nixon introduce General Dwight D. Eisenhower—Richard Nixon’s running mate—to their daughters Tricia (standing) and Julie (carried by her father), Washington National Airport, September 10, 1952.
Nixon’s congressional campaign flyer
Nixon on his “station wagon tour” in Sausalito, California, 1950
Front cover of literature for the Eisenhower–Nixon campaign, 1952