Nixon, Richard M(ilhous)

Nixon, Richard M(ilhous)

biographical name

(born Jan. 9, 1913, Yorba Linda, Calif., U.S.—died April 22, 1994, New York, N.Y.) 37th president of the U.S. (1969–74). He studied law at Duke University and practiced in California (1937–42). After serving in World War II, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (1946). As a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee, he received national attention for his hostile questioning of Alger Hiss. In 1950 he was elected to the Senate following a bitter campaign in which he unfairly portrayed his opponent as a communist sympathizer; the epithet “Tricky Dick” dates from this period. He won the vice presidency in 1952 as the running mate of Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower. During the campaign he delivered a nationally televised address, the “Checkers” speech (named for the dog he admitted receiving as a political gift), to rebut charges of financial misconduct. He and Eisenhower were reelected easily in 1956. As the Republican presidential candidate in 1960, he lost narrowly to John F. Kennedy. After failing to win the 1962 California gubernatorial race, he announced his retirement from politics and criticized the press, declaring that it would not “have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.” He moved to New York to practice law. He reentered politics by running for president in 1968, narrowly defeating Hubert H. Humphrey with his “southern strategy” of seeking votes from southern and western conservatives in both parties. As president, he began to withdraw U.S. military forces from South Vietnam while resuming the bombing of North Vietnam. His expansion of the Vietnam War to Cambodia and Laos in 1970 provoked widespread protests in the U.S. He established direct relations with China and made a state visit there in 1972, the first by a U.S. president. On a visit to the Soviet Union later that year, he signed agreements resulting from the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks between the U.S. and the Soviet Union held between 1969 and 1972, known as SALT I. In domestic affairs, Nixon responded to persistent inflation and increasing unemployment by devaluing the dollar and imposing unprecedented peacetime controls on wages and prices. His administration increased funding for many federal civil-rights agencies and proposed legislation that created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 1972 he won reelection with a landslide victory over George McGovern. Assisted by Henry A. Kissinger, he concluded a peace agreement with North Vietnam (1973), though the war did not come to an end until 1975. His administration helped to undermine the coalition government of Chile's Marxist Pres. Salvador Allende, leading to Allende's overthrow in a military coup in 1973. Nixon's second term was overshadowed by the Watergate scandal, which stemmed from illegal activities by Nixon and others related to the burglary and wiretapping of the headquarters of the Democratic Party. After lengthy congressional investigations and facing near-certain impeachment, Nixon resigned the presidency on Aug. 8, 1974, the first president to do so. Though never convicted of wrongdoing, he was pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford. In retirement, he wrote his memoirs and several books on foreign policy, which modestly rehabilitated his reputation and earned him a role as an elder statesman and foreign-policy expert.

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