"Finishing second in the Olympics gets you silver. Finishing second in politics gets you oblivion." - Richard Nixon
Born in California in 1913, Nixon attended Whittier College and Duke University Law School before beginning the practice of law. In 1940, he married Patricia Ryan; they had two daughters, Patricia and Julie. During World War II, he served as a Navy lieutenant commander in the Pacific.
On leaving the service, he was elected to Congress from his California district, and in 1950 won a Senate seat. Two years later, General Eisenhower selected Nixon, age 39, to be his running mate. Nixon served as Vice President to Eisenhower from 1953 to 1961.
He lost his bid for President, to John F. Kennedy, in 1960. In 1968, he defeated Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey to become President of the USA.
Nixon's first term in office saw the end of American fighting in Viet Nam and the end of the draft, the first American moon landing, and improved relations with the USSR and China. Nixon also introduced new anti-crime laws and a broad environmental program.
Within a few months of Nixon's second term his administration was embattled in the 'Watergate' scandal, stemming from a break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee during the 1972 campaign. The break-in was traced to officials of the Committee to Re-elect the President. Nixon denied any personal involvement, but the courts forced him to yield tape recordings which indicated that he had, in fact, tried to divert the investigation.
As a result of unrelated scandals in Maryland, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigned in 1973, and House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford became Vice President.
Faced with impeachment, Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, so that the "process of healing which is so desperately needed in America." could begin.
In the years that followed, Nixon tried hard to establish himself as an elder statesman but many Americans who had lived through the constitutional crisis spawned by Watergate saw the rehabilitation quest as an attempt to downplay his complicity.
Carl Bernstein, one of the journalists who helped break the Watergate story, says "One of the things that happened is, after he left office, he began gradually taking back the notion that he had done anything wrong."
However, Nixon biographer Irwin Gellman points out that many people in the media and academic world "simply don't want to reflect on the positive side of this man and basically look upon whatever he did that was anything more than negative as irrelevant."
Nixon died on April 22, 1994, having written numerous books on his experiences in public life and on foreign policy.
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