Richard Nixon Biography

37th President of the United States

Years Served as President: 1969-1974

Vice President: Spiro Agnew, Gerald Ford

Party: Republican

Age at Inauguration: 56

Home State: California

Richard Nixon presidential portrait

Date of Birth: January 9, 1913

Died: April 22, 1994

Married: Thelma Catherine “Pat” Ryan 

Children: Patricia, Julie

Nickname: Tricky Dick

Watergate scandal Time magazine

What is Richard Nixon known for?

Richard Nixon is most known for being the only president in U.S. history to resign from office due to the infamous Watergate scandal.

He also ended the Vietnam War and improved relations with China and the Soviet Union.

chinese roof

Early Life

Richard Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California in 1913. He was the second of five sons to his parents Francis and Hannah.

His working-class parents struggled to make a living running a grocery store and a gas station. From a young age, Richard was unhappy with this situation and became ambitious.

Growing up, Richard was an excellent student. He won debates and often landed leading roles in school plays.

In 1934, he graduated from Whittier College. Three years later, he graduated from Duke University with a law degree. He soon began working as an attorney in Whittier, California.

Duke University
Duke University

Family Life

Back in Whittier, Nixon joined a local theater group called the Whittier Community Players. He fell in love with one of his castmates, Thelma Catherine “Pat” Ryan.

The couple married in 1940. They had two daughters, Patricia and Julie.

Nixon was reserved and had only a few close friends. He was very close to his family, who supported him through the ups and downs of his political career.

Pat Nixon
Pat Nixon

Political Career

When the United States entered World War II, Nixon joined the U.S. Navy. He served in the Pacific as an operations officer.

After the war, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In Congress, Nixon served on the House Un-American Activities Committee, which investigated accusations of communist activity in the U.S.

russia-flag

He became well-known to the American people when he led the investigation of Alger Hiss, a former (and popular) state department official accused of spying for the Soviet Union.

In 1950, Nixon was elected to the Senate. His anti-communist platform made him popular with many Americans at the time.

Dwight D. Eisenhower selected Nixon to be his vice-presidential running mate in 1952. Eisenhower won the presidency and served two terms.

Nixon was Eisenhower’s vice president for eight years. He was known as one of the most active and involved vice presidents in history.

Eisenhower official portrait
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Presidential Campaigns

After Eisenhower left office, Nixon ran for president in 1960. He lost one of the closest elections in U.S. history to John F. Kennedy.

The turning point in the election was the first televised presidential debate. Nixon appeared pale, nervous and sweaty next to the youthful, tan, and well-spoken Kennedy.

JFK and Jackie Kennedy

He was extremely upset about losing the election, accusing the media of favoring Kennedy. Nixon continued practicing law.

He ran for governor of California in 1962 and lost that election too.

practicing lawyer

Six years later, Nixon made a political comeback that surprised many people. He won the Republican presidential nomination. In the election, he defeated the Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey and the third-party candidate George Wallace.

Finally, in 1969, Richard Nixon returned to the White House, this time as the president of the United States.

Presidency

The United States was still heavily involved in the Vietnam War. Nixon declared that he would “achieve peace with honor.”

korean and vietnam wars

In a strategy called Vietnamization, Nixon began gradually withdrawing American troops from the war. At the same time, South Vietnamese army forces were trained to better defend themselves.

The last American troops left Vietnam in March of 1973. Nixon also made efforts to repair relationships with China and the Soviet Union. He signed important treaties limiting the production of nuclear weapons.

sun nuclear energy

During Nixon’s presidency, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Nixon spoke to the astronauts during their historic moonwalk on July 21, 1969.

neil armstrong

Watergate Scandal

As Nixon was running for re-election in 1972, five men were caught breaking into the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel.

It turned out that these five men were working with members of Nixon’s administration. Nixon claimed that he had known nothing about the break-in and the men had acted alone.

democrats-republicans

However, secret tapes of White House conversations later showed that Nixon had been involved in trying to cover up the break-in.

Congress was prepared to impeach Nixon. He wanted to avoid a long public trial and resigned instead. Nixon’s vice president Gerald Ford was sworn in as president.

congress capitol hill

After the Presidency

After leaving the White House, Nixon returned to California. He and his wife later moved to New Jersey. He began working to repair his reputation.

Nixon wrote books, consulted with presidents, and traveled. After suffering a stroke, he died in New York City in 1994. He was 81.

new york statue of liberty

Fun Facts About Richard Nixon

Nixon is the only person born and raised in California to become the president of the United States.

He had several musical talents and could play the piano and the violin.

During his presidency, the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18.

voting age

While serving in the U.S. Navy, Nixon won large amounts of money playing poker. He used some of this money to help fund his first presidential campaign.

Nixon’s daughter Julie married David Eisenhower, the grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

playing cards

Gerald Ford eventually pardoned Nixon of any crime.

Five U.S. presidents attended Nixon’s funeral: Bill Clinton, George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford.

US Presidents