Don’t Know Much About® Richard Nixon

Richard M. Nixon (Source:National Archives)

Richard M. Nixon (Courtesy of National Archives)

When the President does it, that means it’s not illegal –Richard M. Nixon to interviewer David Frost (1974)

Born one hundred years ago on January 9, 1913  in Yorba Linda, California – Richard M. Nixon –37th President

From Cold Warrior to vice president under Eisenhower, defeated candidate in the 1960 race with John F. Kennedy to his narrow 1968 election and 1972 landslide, Richard Nixon dominated the American scene as few other politicians have. Then came Watergate and his resignation in August 1974.

I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interests of America first…. Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow.

—Richard M. Nixon, August 8, 1974

Son of a struggling storeowner in California, Nixon was raised a Quaker (the only other Quaker president was Herbert Hoover). He attended Whittier College and studied law at Duke. Nixon returned to California to practice, and served in the Navy during World War II. He was elected to the House of Representatives, making his name as a Communist fighter.  He became Senator and then Eisenhower’s vice president, serving eight years (1953-1961). After his loss to Kennedy to 1960, he returned to California, lost a governor’s race and seemed finished in politics. But in 1968, Nixon mounted a comeback and won a close race over Hubert Humphrey.

There have arguably been better presidents and worse presidents. But there is probably no more complex president than Richard M. Nixon. For three decades Richard Nixon made decisions, especially in the arena of  the war in Southeast Asia, relations with the Soviet Union, and by reaching out to Communist China as only a committed Cold Warrior could do, that altered the arc of history. His extraordinary career flamed out in the Watergate scandals that overshadowed all else that Richard Nixon did— or didn’t do.


Nixon died in New York City, aged eighty-one, on April 22, 1994. (Richard Nixon’s New York Times obituary.)

Read more about Nixon’s life and administration in Don’t Know Much About the American Presidents

Don't Know Much About® the American Presidents-now available in hardcover and eBook and audiobook

Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents-now available in hardcover and eBook and audiobook