Richard Nixon, 37th President: More Than Just a Scandal

Updated on December 13, 2019
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Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else be destined to repeat it.

Nixon and His Wife


Basic Facts

January 9, 1913 - California
President Number
Military Service
United States Navy Reserve
Wars Served
World War II
Age at Beginning of Presidency
56 years old
Term of Office
January 20, 1969 - August 9,1974
How Long Served as President
5 years
Spiro Agnew (1969–1973) None (Oct–Dec 1973) Gerald Ford (1973–1974)
Age and Year of Death
April 22, 1994 (aged 81)
Cause of Death

Early Years

Richard Milhous Nixon, the 37th President of the United States, was well known for his foreign policy. He is the first President to ever resign.

Young Richard was born in Yorba Linda, California on the outskirts of Los Angeles on a lemon farm in 1913. His ancestors were some of the early settlers that traveled west to the new frontier.

After graduating high school, he attended Whittier College in California, where he graduated with high marks. He then went on to study law at Duke University Law School in the east. While in college, he became very successful in the school's debate team. His debating coach stated, "He could take any side and win."

In 1940, he married Patricia Ryan, whom he had two daughters: Patricia (nicknamed Tricia) and Julie.

During WWII, Nixon served in the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant commander in the Pacific. Then in 1946, he returned to California where he was elected to Congress. Many liked that he was strongly opposed to communism. This allowed him to win a seat in the Senate in 1950; then eventually become Eisenhower's Vice Presidential running mate in 1953. At only 39 years old, he became a United States Vice President. During this time, he took on major duties and became nominated for President in 1960 by the Republicans. He lost by a very narrow margin to John F. Kennedy. Soon after, he ran for governor in California but lost that position as well. When neither worked out, he moved to New York where he began working in a law firm.

In 1968, he decided to run for President one more time, this time against Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, because President Lyndon B. Johnson declined to run for a second term. This time Richard Nixon won.

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His First Term

Nixon's first term was a success. One of the most exciting events was when American astronauts landed on the moon in 1969. He had many personal achievements as President as well, such as ending the draft, establishing new anti-crime laws, and promoting environmental programs. He also appointed conservative Justices to the Supreme Court, which he had promised during his election.

Most importantly, the nation had a lot of healing to do due to the Vietnam War. Nixon withdrew troops from Viet Nam, which brought peace to many in the U.S. He promoted long-lasting peace, not just with Viet Nam, but also with the U.S.S.R. and China through visits to Beijing and Moscow in 1972. He met with Russian leader Leonid I. Brezhnev, where they agreed on a treaty that limited strategic nuclear weapons.

These great victories allowed him to win with a considerable margin in 1972, despite rumors of a scandal that would be known as Watergate slowly emerging. He won with one of the most extensive margins on record against Democratic candidate George McGovern.

Official White House Portrait


The Watergate Scandal

Only a few short months later, news of the "Watergate" scandal would sweep the nation. It all tied back to a break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee during the 1972 campaign. It appeared that officials from the Committee to Re-elect the President were involved. It all seemed to center around the Watergate building in Washington that was used as the headquarters of the National Democratic Committee during the 1972 election.

Police eventually arrested five men who had burglarized the headquarters and installed wiretapping devices, which caused many administration officials to resign. The Senate sent an investigating committee to uncover the truth. Unfortunately, they were learning that Nixon and people that were close to him were trying to cover up for the men. Many of his top assistants were beginning to be convicted of fraud, bribery, and obstruction of justice and eventually sent to Prison. The President continued to deny his involvement in the affair.

In 1973, an unrelated scandal in Maryland occurred involving Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, which caused Spiro to resign, leaving the nation without a Vice President. Nixon nominated Gerald R. Ford. Congress approved this decision, not realizing that they were also appointing their next President.

The Watergate Scandal often overshadows his second term, despite some significant accomplishments. In January 1973, he ended American involvement in Indochina, which brought further peace with North Viet Nam. In 1974, his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, brought even more peace, this time between Israel and its opponents, Egypt and Syria, when they were able to negotiate disengagement agreements.

Unfortunately, the Watergate Scandal was still being investigated, and more evidence was revealed. In 1974, they uncovered Nixon's involvement. The courts forced him to relinquish tape recordings. The House Judiciary Committee agreed to adopt impeachment proceedings.

On August 8, 1974, Richard Nixon announced that he would resign the next day so that the "...the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America..." would begin. Vice-President Ford would become the new American President. He would later pardon Nixon for his crimes while in office.

After resigning, Nixon remained active in politics, where he spoke with world leaders, wrote books on his experiences in public life, and discussed international relations. He died on April 22, 1994.

Excerpt from the History Channel

Fun Facts

  • He was the first President to resign from office.
  • He was President Eisenhower's Vice President.
  • He wrote several books about his time in politics.
  • He could play five instruments, including piano, saxophone, clarinet, accordion, and violin.
  • Although not confirmed that Nixon is a descendant of King Edward III of England on his mother's side. Regardless of whether he was of royal descent or not, he was named after Richard the Lionheart. Three of his four brothers were named after English kings, the fourth named after their father.
  • He ran for his senior student body president position but lost.
  • He ran an orange juice business that eventually failed called Citra-Frost Company.

Trademark Victory Sign

Taken prior to becoming president in Philadelphia, showing off his trademark victory sign.
Taken prior to becoming president in Philadelphia, showing off his trademark victory sign. | Source

List of United States President

1. George Washington
16. Abraham Lincoln
31. Herbert Hoover
2. John Adams
17. Andrew Johnson
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
3. Thomas Jefferson
18. Ulysses S. Grant
33. Harry S. Truman
4. James Madison
19. Rutherford B. Hayes
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
5. James Monroe
20. James Garfield
35. John F. Kennedy
6. John Quincy Adams
21. Chester A. Arthur
36. Lyndon B. Johnson
7. Andrew Jackson
22. Grover Cleveland
37. Richard M. Nixon
8. Martin Van Buren
23. Benjamin Harrison
38. Gerald R. Ford
9. William Henry Harrison
24. Grover Cleveland
39. James Carter
10. John Tyler
25. William McKinley
40. Ronald Reagan
11. James K. Polk
26. Theodore Roosevelt
41. George H. W. Bush
12. Zachary Taylor
27. William Howard Taft
42. William J. Clinton
13. Millard Fillmore
28. Woodrow Wilson
43. George W. Bush
14. Franklin Pierce
29. Warren G. Harding
44. Barack Obama
15. James Buchanan
30. Calvin Coolidge
45. Donald Trump

Nixon's Resignation


Resignation Letter



  • Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2009). Richard Nixon. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from
  • Klein, Christopher. "10 Things You May Not Know About Richard Nixon." January 09, 2013. Accessed November 14, 2017.
  • Sullivan, George. Mr. President: A Book of U.S. Presidents. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Print.

© 2017 Angela Michelle Schultz


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    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      2 years ago from Ohio

      It seems Nixon did a lot of good. Too bad he had to involve himself in Watergate! :)


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